HC Deb 08 November 2001 vol 374 cc357-9W
Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what Government bodies and agencies deal with matters referred to in the Chief Medical Officer's advice of January relating to the removal, retention and use of human organs and tissue from post-mortem examination; what work has been undertaken by them; and what further work remains for them to do; [12373]

(2) what recent study he has made of the psychological aspects of the removal and retention of human organs and tissue; what further work he plans; and how such work will be carried out; [12371]

(3) what recent research he has undertaken on international practice relating to the removal, retention and use of human organs and tissue; and if he will make a statement; [12372]

(4) what action he proposes to take to put into practice the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer in respect of the removal, retention and use of human organs and tissue; [12370]

(5) what work has been done on the recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer for a review of the legislation on organ donation; and when he is planning to begin consultations. [10958]

Ms Blears

[holding answer 5 November 2001]: We are committed to implementing the Chief Medical Officer's recommendations on the removal, retention and use of human organs and tissue made in the light of the Redfern and Kennedy reports. The Department is principally responsible for this programme. We have established the Retained Organs Commission as a special health authority to oversee, among other things, the return of organs and tissue to families who want that to happen. The Home Office is leading a review of the coroners' system which was set up in July this year. Close links are being maintained between the two Departments and with the Commission.

As part of the implementation programme, we shall shortly be consulting publicly on a number of documents, including codes of practice on communications with families about post mortems and on the import and export of body parts. Linked to the Department's wider "Good Practice in Consent" initiative, we shall be piloting consent forms for hospital post mortems and for consent to the post-mortem removal, retention and use of organs and tissue where such actions are not required by the Coroner. We shall be seeking views also on an interim statement on the use of organs and tissue, based on the current law.

For the medium to longer term, the Department is leading a comprehensive review of the law in England and Wales which will examine, among other things, the taking, storage and use of organs and tissue from the living and the dead and options for future regulatory control. We shall be issuing an initial consultative paper on the review in the near future.

As part of the review we shall be gathering further information about how these matters are treated in other countries, notably elsewhere in the European Union, in North America and in parts of the Commonwealth.

We do not now propose to legislate separately to amend the Human Tissue Act 1961 to clarify that consent must be sought from those with parental responsibility for the retention of organs or tissue from post mortem on children beyond the time necessary to establish the cause of death. This proposal, as well as our intention to introduce a penalty for non-compliance, will be considered as part of the comprehensive review.

We are aware that many families affected by organ removal and retention may require a range of support, including psychological support, from the statutory and voluntary services. On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, we have made a clear commitment to improve bereavement services. We shall be considering what else may need to be done to meet individual and family needs; and whether the Department needs to commission any research or other survey on psychological aspects. The consultative process will have an important part to play here.