HC Deb 04 June 2003 vol 406 cc485-6W
Harry Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which categories of people have had their brains removed from their bodies by authorities in the last 10 years; which authorities have the power to undertake removal; what guidelines apply to each authority in relation to this activity; and if he will make a statement. [116704]

Mr. Lammy

Under the Human Tissue Act 1961, organs and tissue may be taken and used for medical purposes after a post-mortem examination by a national health service pathologist if the person who has died authorised this prior to death. Where the deceased has not expressed a view, relatives may authorise such taking and use of organs and tissue.

Under the Coroners Act 1988 and Coroners Rules 1984, a coroner undertaking a coroner's post mortem examination may remove and retain any organs or tissue that he/she deems relevant to the cause of death on his/her own authority alone. However, any organ or tissue removed in such cases may not be used for any other purpose unless separate authorisation is obtained.

Under the Anatomy Act 1984 and Anatomy Regulations 1988, organs and tissue, including brains and brain tissue, may be removed for anatomical examination when a person has bequeathed his or her body for this purpose.

In terms of the legal implications, the brain is no different from any other part of the human body in respect of the above.

Following extensive consultation last year, comprehensive new guidance on the taking and use of organs and tissue following post-mortem examination was published on 25 April 2003. This has been placed in the Library. New legislation is also in preparation. This will be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows

Data about the categories of people from whom any organs or tissues have been removed are not collated or held centrally. However, the Report of a Census of Organs and Tissues Retained by Pathology Services in England, published by the Chief Medical Officer in 2000, may be of interest.

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