HC Deb 26 April 2004 vol 420 cc832-3W
Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action his Department is taking to encourage hospitals to carry out autopsies. [166731]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The decision as to whether to request a hospital post-mortem examination is for the treating clinician and the deceased's family. However, we are aware that in the past the taking and use of organs and tissue without consent at post-mortems has damaged public and professional confidence in the hospital post-mortem examination

We have issued new guidance to the national health service to help restore that confidence. This takes the form of a code of practice for those involved in communicating with families where a post-mortem may be necessary or desirable. It includes a revision of the consent forms required to be completed by relatives with the aim of helping families understand the procedure and enabling them to grant an informed consent to a post-mortem and the disposal of organs or tissue. This guidance is available on the Deportment's website at: www.dh.gov.uk/tissue Later this year we will be making available to NHS trusts a short video/DVD produced with the support of the Royal College of Pathologists that explains the reasons for, and benefits to be obtained from, a post-mortem and encouraging the consent of families to the procedure.

We are also taking positive action to change the law to secure further changes to re-establish confidence. The Human Tissue Bill, currently before Parliament, ensures that whatever is done with the human body and its parts after death within the NHS will be done only as part of a transparent process and with appropriate consent. It will also introduce penalties for organ retention without consent as additional reassurance for the integrity of the new procedures.

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