The NHS has seen some deeply unpleasant organ retention scandals in recent years, such as those involving the body parts of children at hospitals in Bristol and Alder Hey in Liverpool.
The story we report today about how organs belonging to Simon Jeans, who was murdered in Croatia in 1996, have suddenly come to light in a London hospital is of a different type but is equally shocking.
Simon’s father Terry Jeans has pursued his son’s killer through the courts in Croatia, trying to find justice. In 2011, after several abortive attempts, he finally saw a guilty conviction and last year an appeal against the lenient sentence given the year before saw Dejan Skaro put behind bars.
At the time Mr Jeans was satisfied, thinking that at last he could put that stage of his life behind him. But now he has learnt that the brain, lungs and heart of Simon were not just retained by the police as part of the investigation, but seemingly forgotten about.
This is where this case differs from previous organ scandals – it appears to be a horrific form of complacency or absent-mindedness on the part of the authorities that left the organs to be remain undetected for years in a hospital.
And to add insult to injury Mr Jeans could be landed with a substantial cost to hold a ceremony to inter the remaining parts of his son.
This is simply not good enough.
We do not call for anyone to be sacked over this malpractice, but it is vitally important that the sequence of events that led to this situation is investigated and procedures are put in place so that it never happens again. Indeed, it must also be established that no others mourning parents or children could find themselves in the same position as Mr Jeans.
Secondly, when any investigation is completed, we would urge people in authority in the police force and the hospitals concerned to visit Mr Jeans to explain what happened and to apologise.
And thirdly, there is no way that Mr Jeans should be left out of pocket for this scandal. It is the least that can be done to atone for a disgraceful situation.