Two brains were mistakenly transplanted into the wrong bodies during a post-mortem at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
The mishap was one of 278 ‘serious incidents’ which occurred in mortuaries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2014 to 2016, according to a BBC Freedom of Information Request (FOI).
The John Radcliffe, one of four Hospitals in Oxford’s NHS Foundation Trust, collaborates with the University for research purposes and is the most popular base for clinical medical students.
A spokesperson for Oxford University Hospitals told Cherwell: “This very regrettable incident, for which Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and individuals have apologised to the families, was an error in the labelling of two brains during a specialist examination as part of the autopsy process.
“The mistake was promptly recognised by staff working in the mortuary at the John Radcliffe Hospital and rectified.
“This incident was reported to the Human Tissue Authority and the Trust also commissioned an external expert to carry out a thorough investigation and review processes in the mortuary in order to help us ensure we prevent anything like this happening again in the future.”
A medical student said: “From the time I’ve personally spent with corpses or body parts, it can be easy to forget that these were once living breathing people with families.
“When dealing with such sensitive material we should always be respectful and treat the body parts in a manner that their owners would have desired.
“In these incidents I feel that people have perhaps not been as meticulous or thorough whilst carrying out their work as they would have been if they were dealing with a living patient.
“Death can be distressing and when these types of incidents occur it simply makes things even worse for those involved.”
Rosa Curson Smith, a second year at Hertford College, told Cherwell: “whilst this may seem like an amusing mix up to those not involved, it presumably caused deep upset for the families of the deceased.
“Oversights like this should be avoided when operating on the dead as well as the living .”
A St Peter’s student added: “It is key that doctors and medical staff are open and honest to those close to the deceased individual about the mistakes made.”
Tyron Surmon, a student at Corpus Christi, said: “How could they not have done it right? “The operation was a no-brainer.”