THE Government has been asked to explain why there was no follow-up

investigation on pregnant women who were repeatedly injected with

radioactive iodine more than 30 years ago.

Leader of the House, Mr Tony Newton, was asked for a statement last

night by SNP MP Margaret Ewing.

Her party leader, Mr Alex Salmond, said he was ''very disturbed'' by

the ethical questions raised by a television documentary last night

which featured one of his constituents.

''This is a matter of huge public concern,'' he said.

The constituent, Mrs Kathleen Morrison, 62, her sister, and three

friends were among 91 pregnant women who had radioactive iodine injected

into their thyroids.

Mrs Morrison has called for follow-up research following fears that

the children of those who volunteered for the experiment in Aberdeen

between 1962 and 1964 may be affected.

She suffered throat cancer seven years ago and, although she is not

claiming it was as a result of the research, she is concerned about the

effects of the work carried out at the Obstetric Medicine Research Unit,

then headed by obstetrician Sir Dugald Baird.

The experiment is understood to have been carried out as part of his

PhD thesis by Dr Aboul Khair, a Research Fellow in Therapeutics and


A subsequent experiment carried out in the same unit involving a

further 37 women, who were about to have abortions, revealed that unborn

children were more susceptible to radioactive iodine than had previously

been realised. However, it was known at that stage the foetus is at risk

from even low level radiation.

On the Channel 4 documentary, True Stories: Deadly Experiments,

produced by Twenty Twenty Television, Mrs Morrison, a retired teacher of

Cruden Bay, said: ''I'm absolutely horrified that in 1962 they were

prepared to inject myself, a pregnant woman, with radioactive iodine

when they had known earlier there was a problem. I feel our trust was


She said they had been told there was no risk involved.

''I was 29. We were intelligent, well educated women, who wanted the

best for our children and we agreed to the tests because we never even

thought that a doctor would put us at risk.

''They did tell us they were using radioactivity in the tests but

nobody knew what that was then. I'm a 'wifie' now and it is not me I am

worried about, it is my daughter.''

Mrs Morrison said it was only when she started hearing about the

effects on soldiers of nuclear fallout on Christmas Island she became


She said: ''I would like to know they are interested enough to see

what happened to the 91 children in northeast Scotland whose mothers

underwent these tests.''

The Medical Research Council, which funded the experiments, yesterday

denied they had been carried out secretly or that there had been any


Its spokesman, Mr Paul Fawcett, said he could not comment on the

experiment in which Mrs Morrison was involved because he had only scant

details, but confirmed another experiment involving 37 women was carried


''The thyroid can cause all sorts of problems, particularly in

pregnancy, so doctors have had an interest in studying that for many

years and one of the ways they can do that is by administering

radioactive iodine,'' he said.

''It was, and still is, very common to give radioactive iodine to

investigate problems with the thyroid. That may sound terribly alarming

but a study took place in Sweden in 1990 involving more than 10,000

women over a period of nine years. ''All these women had diagnostic

amounts, amounts sufficient to see what was going on, or therapeutic

amounts which would be far greater and would be to actually treat

problems like cancer. They were followed up to see if any had got cancer

of the thyroid as a result and they found that the incidence of cancer

in those 10,000 women was exactly the same as the average.''

He said a report published in 1966 in the scientific journal Clinical

Science indicated the study was carried out in 37 patients with normal

pregnancies on whom termination was performed on medical or psychiatric


The Channel 4 documentary made numerous revelations about experiments

which were carried out until the 1970s and one between 1955 and 1970 in

which hospital pathologists removed body parts from 6000 corpses,

without the knowledge of their families, and sent them to Harwell to be

analysed for fallout levels. The MRC confirmed to The Herald last night

that Aberdeen would have been one of the centres, but the research had

been carried out ''discreetly rather than secretly''. Channel 4 tracked

down Mrs Grace Brown for their programme. She discovered that when her

12-month-old son, Ray Jones, died in 1957 bones were removed from his

body without her consent.

''It was something that in your wildest dreams you never imagined

might happen to your baby,'' she said. ''I feel as if my son's body was


''If they had asked me for his heart to save another baby, it would

have been hard, but I would have done it. But taking bits of him without

asking . . .''

Mr Fawcett confirmed that bones had been removed from bodies for

analysis without families being aware, but said: ''They were taking bone

samples not secretly but discreetly.

''There was no law to say samples couldn't be taken at post mortem,

not only to determine the cause of death, but also for other health

problems. It was something that took place, but if your nearest and

dearest has died the last thing you want is a grisly account of what is

going to be done. It would be grossly insensitive.'' The experiments

were to determine how strontium was affecting people and the 6000

samples were random and from people of all ages.

Mr Fawcett said: ''What these experiments did show was that it was a

problem. People were getting strontium in their bones and children were

particularly at risk, and you can argue that exactly this kind of work

led to the banning of the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.

''There is an implication that these experiments are about

radioactivity. They are not, they are about health problems, serious

health problems. Radioactivity was used simply to help scientists see

what these problems were and how they could be treated. It is a complete

red herring to say they were looking at the effects of radioactivity.''

In last night's programme, one experiment highlighted was on Asian

women in Coventry and it was claimed they were unaware of the details.

Mr Fawcett said the experiments in Coventry were to find out why Asian

women were deficient in iron. He added: ''One of the scientists is still

around and we have had a rock solid assurance they visited each family

and discussed the experiment and explained it to them. If the families

didn't speak English, they made sure a bilingual family member was

there. That was done in good faith.''

Mr Alan Reid, of the Aberdeen Royal Hospitals Trust, said last night:

''If Mrs Morrison or anyone else involved has any concerns they should

contact us in writing and we will address these concerns.''