A WOMAN claims her late mum’s body was secretly handed over “like a piece of meat” to a medical school without her consent – sparking a police probe.
Nicola Wing, 55, found out days after mum Gwenda Higgins’ death in February that her body had been “donated” without the family’s knowledge.
Medical staff also cremated the body before distraught Nicola could retrieve it for a family ceremony, she claims.
Cops are now investigating after the discovery of “suspicious” release forms apparently signed two days before Mrs Higgins’ death at Colchester General Hospital in Essex.
The documents – allowing for her body to be donated to science – were supposedly signed while she was in a coma.
Essex Police say an 86-year-old man has been questioned but there have been no arrests.
Mrs Higgins, who was in her eighties, had been living with dementia and suffered a stroke.
Nicola said: “It was just a gut instinct that it was not right.
“When I asked when the forms had been signed, it was two days before she died – but she was in a coma.”
Nicola, of Rainham, Essex, called around universities before finally discovering that her mum’s body had been taken to Norwich Medical School.
It’s like she has been treated like a piece of meat. I just want my mum’s ashes
Staff at the University of East Anglia, which runs the school, advised her that the signature on the form was “suspicious” – and she should contact the police.
And they later made the bombshell revelation that Mrs Higgins’ remains had been cremated without her family present.
Nicola added: “It’s like she has been treated like a piece of meat.
“I just want my mum’s ashes.”
It’s believed her mum’s body was presented to the school for educational purposes for medical students.
Regulator the Human Tissue Authority has strict guidelines on this process.
Its website says: “A donated body can be used for a number of purposes, which may include anatomical examination – teaching students or healthcare professionals about the structure and function of the human body.
“Under the Human Tissue Act 2004, written and witnessed consent for anatomical examination must be given prior to death. Consent cannot be given by anyone else after your death.
“A consent form can be obtained from your local medical school and a copy should be kept with your Will.
“You should also inform your family, close friends, and GP that you wish to donate your body.”
As a criminal investigation is taking place, we are holding the ashes, pending the completion of that investigation
Prof William Fraser
Professor William Fraser, head of Norwich Medical School, said: “Whilst next of kin and other family members are not able to attend the cremation, they are invited to a thanksgiving service which we regularly hold to acknowledge and thank those who have donated their body to medical research.
“Donations are accepted based on fully completed consent forms signed by the individual.
“These consent forms are independently witnessed, in line with guidance from the Human Tissue Authority, the national regulator.
“We acted in line with her request on the forms provided to us.”
He added: “As a criminal investigation is taking place, we are holding the ashes, pending the completion of that investigation.”
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An Essex Police spokesman said investigations are continuing.
He added: “An 86-year-old man has been interviewed under caution in relation to this incident.
“No arrests have been made.”
Mrs Higgins died at Colchester General Hospital in Essex in February[/caption]
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