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St Pancras Coroner to deliver verdict after 4 children die at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Arti Shah
24/11/2014
Last week St Pancras Coroner Mary Hassell resumed an Inquest that had been opened on 7 July 2014 to investigate the deaths of 4 young children following treatment received at Great Ormond Street Hospital. All 4 children received transplanted frozen stem cells and subsequently died. The children were receiving treatment, part of which involved receiving cryopreserved (frozen) bone marrow stem cells from a donor. Cryopreservation is a process whereby cells are cooled and stored at lower temperatures in order to preserve their viability so that they can be used at a later date.

Concerns had first been raised at Great Ormond Street Hospital in June 2013 but treatment was not stopped until October 2013, by which point 3 children had died. It transpired that 8 children had been affected in total. The fourth died at a later date, whilst the other 4 survived.

The Guardian reported that an expert in stem cells called to give evidence at the Inquest advised that the way the stem cells were being frozen had caused the problem. The Inquest also heard that hospitals and research centres across the UK each have their own methods of freezing stem cells. A senior doctor from Great Ormond Street Hospital giving evidence at the Inquest called for the Coroner to write to the centres with a request to pool information and produce a national register to avoid similar tragedies.

Arti Shah, solicitor at Fieldfisher, attended the initial hearing in July. She commented:

"This is a devastating case in which 4 young children have died. There is a clear public interest and it is essential that a full and thorough investigation has been conducted to determine exactly what happened during their treatment and just as importantly, what measures have been put in place to prevent an incident like this occurring in the future."

A verdict is due on Tuesday.

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