A doctor in southern Norway secretly transported dissected body parts from the hospital to his home, police said on Thursday.
The gruesome discovery was made after police were notified of the possible storage of body parts in the man's home. Here, they discovered a freezer with its handles removed containing a suspicious looking box that was secured with several locks.
Upon opening the box, police found a number of amputated body parts.
Police said in a statement that the man took the body parts, which he received from willing donors for a research project, to his home after leaving his job at Sørlandet Hospital. It is believed that the doctor was not confident that that would be stored correctly at the hospital or that they might be destroyed.
According to broadcaster NRK, the man claimed in a police interview to have invested a lot of his time on the research project and did not want to see his work wasted should the body parts be lost. He therefore bought the freezer and began transporting the body parts to his home.
NRK attempted to contact the doctor involved, who did not wish to comment further.
Despite the grisly and unusual nature of the episode, it appears that the doctor will be able to continue working after receiving a warning from the National Board of Health (Statens Helsetilsyn).
Inspector Arne Sundvall of Agder Police District told NRK that the police patrol that discovered the body parts returned them to Sørlandet Hospital and that the case was then referred to the Board of Health.
“It was concluded that the researcher had not broken the law, so the Board of Health took over the case,” Sundvall told NRK.
The doctor received an official warning after being found by the Board of Health to have broken professional practice (helsepersonelloven) and research practice (helseforskningsloven) codes.
“We take particularly seriously the unethical nature of taking research material home for storage. A lot of confidence is needed for patients to donate biological material for research, and we feel in this case that confidence has been broken,” Board of Health director Toril Sagen told NRK.
While the warning received by the doctor will not affect his ability to continue practising, it will remain permanently on his records and will be taken into account should any future complaints be raised.
“If a doctor continues to carry out inadequate research, and does not improve after a warning, then he or she can, in the worst case, lose authorisation,” Sagen said.