Consent for Organ and Tissue Retention in British Law in the Light of the Human Tissue Act 2004
Medicine and Law: The World Association for Medical Law 2006 September; 25(3): 427-434
The experience from the scandals in hospitals at Liverpool and Bristol in the UK where retention of tissue and organs was undertaken without the consent of the parents and relatives raised serious concerns regarding the efficacy of the existing Human Tissue Act 1961, in England and the operation of the law by medical practitioners. In the aftermath of these damaging scandals a combination of public distrust and government overreaction has led to the enactment of new legislation, the Human Tissue Act 2004, which is aiming to prevent any further instances of the retention of organs and tissue from dead children or adults without their next of kin's consent or knowledge. However, scientists have expressed concerns that such changes might seriously endanger several medical research programmes, and also tissue and organ donation for transplantation. The aim of this article is to highlight important issues raised by existing practice in the post-mortem examinations in the UK and the lessons learnt from this and to discuss the benefits and the potential problems arising from the new Act.
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