Friday 7 February 2014

NHS organ returns (1974)

There have been recent reports about National Health Service plans to sell off patient data (i.e. your personal medical records) to the highest bidding drug and pharmaceutical companies. It's worth remembering that something similar happened when the NHS almost closed down in 1974.

This leaflet was distributed at the time:

Click to enlarge

By Autumn of 1974 the government, which was not prepared for the sheer numbers of returned prostheses and organs, declared a state of medical emergency. Warehouses up and down the country spilled over with artificial legs, arms and buttocks.

"It looked like the piles of confiscated possessions one sees at concentration camps,"
said one man who was forced to return all his limbs and an ovary he wasn't aware he had.

Mountains of returned livers, kidneys and hearts (and even children who had been born as a result of artificial insemination) spoiled in unrefridgerated conditions and the overwhelmed government had no choice but to return the decaying, by now useless  organs to their owners. However, to make amends they did also send packs of complimentary lemon-fresh hand wipes.

Though thousands died, the government did not consider it to be a failing of the NHS. The fault was squarely aimed at the public who were accused of being unhygienic and told to wash more.

Returned prostheses: Wellcome Library, London.


  1. They should have hired repo men when they had bigger credits.

  2. This is my favorite storry... by the way, I become really obsessed with you :p. You are brilliant. Now I understand also the foundation of your work.

  3. Rubbish by enforcing this the govt wouldn't have had a leg to stand on