Stored Human Tissue: An Ethical Perspective on the Fate of the Anonymous, Archival Material
Journal of Medical Ethics 2003 December; 29(6): 343-347
The furore over the retention of organs at postmortem examination, without adequate consent, has led to a reassessment of the justification for, and circumstances surrounding, the retention of any human material after postmortem examinations and operations. This brings into focus the large amount of human material stored in various archives and museums, much of which is not identifiable and was accumulated many years ago, under unknown circumstances. Such anonymous archival material could be disposed of, used for teaching, used for research, or remain in storage. We argue that there are no ethical grounds for disposing of the material, or for storing it in the absence of a teaching or research rationale. Nevertheless, with stringent safeguards, it can be used even in the absence of consent in research and teaching. Regulations are required to control the storage of all such human material, along the lines of regulations governing anatomy body bequests.
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