Children's bodies are being unlawfully transported to post mortem examinations because of a shortage of pathologists, doctors' leaders and coroners have claimed.
Members of the Royal College of Pathologists and the BMA believe there is an acute shortage of paediatric pathologists to carry out post mortems - particularly in the wake of the Alder Hey children's hospital case where children's organs were removed and stored without parents' consent.
The Coroners Act 1988 only allows the removal of a body for post mortem to an adjoining district.
But coroners claim this law is regularly breached because of a shortage of pathologists. The situation is particularly bad in the south-west of England, where children who have died are frequently sent to specialist centres in Oxford or London, it has been claimed.
Royal College of Pathologists paediatric pathology specialty advisory committee chair Chris Wright said pressure had increased following recommendations that child specialists should deal with unexpected infant deaths in the wake of the case of the late solicitor Sally Clark who was ultimately cleared of murdering two of her children.
'There aren't enough people to do the job and there are particular problems in the south west,' Dr Wright said. 'Babies who require post mortems will be going to other parts of the country, which is inadequate and, from the point of view of the family, completely unsatisfactory.'
Dr Wright, a Newcastle consultant perinatal pathologist, said there were currently only about 40 paediatric pathologists, a number which is insufficient to cope with the work and shows no sign of increasing.