Suffolk: Dispute meant body left in West Suffolk Hospital mortuary for more than two years

West Suffolk Hospital

West Suffolk Hospital - Credit: Archant

A body lay in a hospital mortuary for two and a half years because of a “family dispute”, the East Anglian Daily Times has learnt.

The bizarre revelation from West Suffolk Hospital bosses is thought to be one of many cases of a body being left uncollected or unclaimed for more than 30 days.

Long-term storage is often required for legal reasons, due to ongoing police investigations, but sources have suggested the non-collection of a body due to a family argument is highly unusual.

Although the hospital said it could not comment on the particular case, either the coroner or the hospital’s own patient affairs team would have been working with the family to end the conflict.

According to a statement released under the Freedom of Information Act in July, the body of a 64-year-old man had also been held at the Hardwick Lane site in Bury St Edmunds for three months. The body, which has not been identified, is being kept until the results of a DNA test are returned.

The hospital mortuary, which dealt with 1,600 bodies last year, were unable to provide comprehensive statistics on storage times as all records are kept in a hand-written ledger.

To look at each entry, which includes deaths in the community as well as West Suffolk Hospital bodies, would exceed strict cost limits set down under the Freedom of Information Act. A spokeswoman confirmed that the hospital trust was looking at digitising the system.

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Experts have said that long-term storage is unlikely to cause the hospital difficulties and would have no health service implications. One source said that there are more likely to be capacity issues at Christmas when crematoria restrict access but that temporary facilities could be brought in.