Archive for the ‘Human tissue’ Category

Bioethics: Ethics and Law of the Human Body and Body Parts

In 2014, body parts, human body, Human tissue, Organ donation on February 17, 2014 at 8:24 am

I spent my one-semester long Sabbatical (2013-2014) at the Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada (TRU). TRU’s relatively new law school is an exciting place to conduct academic research, and the law school’s faculty is comprised of both established and young legal scholars who are very competent and are already making their mark in various fields of legal scholarship. In addition to the huge stock of relevant materials in their library, they have a very useful and fully-fledged e-library; the law librarian, Mrs Mary Hemmings, was very helpful to me and ensured that I got all the materials I needed for my research. The law school’s move to a new and commodious building, equipped with various teaching and research tools, ensures the comfort and resources necessary to engender useful and original research.

I was privileged to be invited to present weekly seminars on Bioethics at TRU. My seminars focused on the ethical and legal issues arising from the biotechnological utilisation of human cadavers and body parts. Particularly, we focused on the philosophical and theoretical conceptualisations of property, its application to the human body and the ethical implications of such a deployment of property theory. My seminar students were both curious and excited by the various topics I presented, and they asked many questions that heightened the interaction and conversations in class.

A colleague at TRU, Professor Ruby Dhand, kindly invited me to present a lecture to her health law class based on my recent article (Body Parts in Property Theory: An Integrated Framework (2014) 40 J Med Ethics 33) published by the JME, which was part of her lecture materials. Her students read the article and asked critical questions that showed strong engagement with the piece.

The Vice President (Academic) of TRU, together with the Faculty of Law, honoured me with an invitation to present a university-wide lecture on the ethical and legal problems surrounding separated human organs. The arrangement for this lecture could not be finalised before I left, but it is still in process.

Remi Nwabueze

John Coggon on Elective Ventilation for Organ Donation: Law, Policy, and Public Ethics

In 2012, Human tissue on December 5, 2012 at 7:59 am

Our most recent HEAL event was a fascinating seminar with John Coggon speaking on Elective Ventilation for Organ Donation: Law, Policy, and Public Ethics. His paper drew on an article accepted by the Journal of Medical Ethics (forthcoming); abstract kindly provided below.


Abstract This paper examines questions concerning elective ventilation, contextualised within English law and policy. It presents the general debate with reference both to the Exeter Protocol on elective ventilation, and the considerable developments in legal principle since the time that that protocol was declared to be unlawful. I distinguish different aspects of what might be labelled elective ventilation policies under the following four headings: ‘basic elective ventilation’; ‘epistemically complex elective ventilation’; ‘practically complex elective ventilation’; and ‘epistemically and practically complex elective ventilation’. I give a legal analysis of each. In concluding remarks on their potential practical viability, I emphasise the importance not just of ascertaining the legal and ethical acceptability of these and other forms of elective ventilation, but also of assessing their professional and political acceptability. This importance relates both to the successful implementation of the individual practices, and to guarding against possible harmful effects in the wider efforts to increase the rates of posthumous organ donation.

This week’s meeting!

In 2012, Human tissue, Meetings on January 24, 2012 at 8:26 am

News of our first 2012 event: Friday, 27 January, at 11am in the staff club, Highfield campus – Hazel, Jonathan and I will be meeting to discuss the Welsh Assembly’s White Paper on a proposed opt-out system for organ donation in Wales. English & Welsh versions of this document and further details about the consultation can be found http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/healthsocialcare/organ/?lang=en

The consultation contains 9 questions, broadly about operational issues of such a system (eg. factors to be taken into account in determining whether someone ‘lives in Wales’, safeguards for those lacking capacity, age restrictions and possible equality impact), and closes on 31 January 2012.

Anyone who would like to join us for this discussion is most welcome.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics celebrates 20 years

In 2012, Human tissue on January 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Yesterday a number of us received copies of a Report reviewing and celebrating 20 years of events and activities since the establishment of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in 1991. The Report includes a foreward from the current Chair, Professor Albert Weale, who notes the increasing global life expectancy – since 1950 – from 46 years of age to 70 (80 in wealthier nations), and the bioethical questions provoked by increased well-being:  ‘In short, how can we lead lives, collectively as well as individually, that embody respect and justice given our growing understanding of health and life processes?’

Prof. Weale goes on to say:  ‘[T]he Council has sought to anticipate and not merely respond to public concerns, accepting that it will never have the last word but hoping sometimes to have the first. Its success has relied upon all those who have been on working parties, provided evidence and opinion in public consultations, worked for the Council secretariat or sat on the Council itself.‘ (emphasis added)

We are delighted to have been able to contribute to the public consultation that fed into one of its most recent reports, Human Bodies: donation for medicine and research – this was a revisitation of the issues around the use of human tissue/bodily materials in medicine and research, the subject of the Council’s second enquiry, which reported in 1995. HEAL, in its capacity as a consultation respondent, is cited on p88: ‘Whilst it might be right to try to meet ‘demand’ for renewable materials such as blood, the ‘demand’ for female egg donation in potentially limitless’. Further, both HEAL and the University of Southampton have strong links with the Council itself, as Professor Anneke Lucassen and Professor Hugh Perry are current Council members, and Dr Caroline Jones has recently provided evidence on legal and policy issues arising from mitochondrial DNA donation.

We wish the Nuffield Council on Bioethics a very successful future.

Joint CELS/HEAL event: 16 December 2011

In 2011, Human tissue, Meetings on December 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

On Friday 16 December, 1-2.30pm, in room 2209, building 85 (Life Sciences, Highfield), we have a joint CELS/HEAL seminar led by Jessica Wright on The Human Tissue Act 2004 and Tissue Research in England: Does the Act promote the harmonisation of cancer tissue banks?      All are welcome.

Abstract: International calls have been made for organisations that collect, store and transport human tissue samples for research purposes to standardise their practices to enable more effective scientific collaboration.  Cooperation between cancer tissue banks could encourage higher quality samples and data, allow larger, more powerful research projects to take place, and provide opportunities for rare cancers to be studied. Despite this, lack of standardisation and non-cooperation remain the prominent features of the field. This study aims to identify the barriers and facilitators to cooperation.


Preliminary results identify the Human Tissue Act and related system (HTA) as the relevant legal standard in England, so it is important to ask whether it promotes the harmonisation of cancer tissue banks. To an extent, the HTA has promoted harmonisation, for example through the introduction of the Research Tissue Bank approval system and compulsory standards that improve tissue quality. But there are concerns that the HTA impedes harmonisation by costing money to implement, holding-up tissue collection, obliging researchers to dispose of valuable samples, causing confusion and marginalising pathologists. In conclusion, while improving aspects of the system implemented by the HTA would help the harmonisation of cancer tissue banks, further standards are also needed.

Legal Regulation and Xenotransplantation

In 2011, Human tissue on November 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on Human Bodies: donation for medicine and research suggested that the initial promise of xenotransplantation has yet been realised, partly because of concerns over the risk of gene transmission (para 3.43) but that its future use should not be discounted. The regulation of Xenotransplantation has become less visible since the UK Xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority (UKXIRA) was disbanded in 2006. Guidance on Xenotransplantation was issued by the Department of Health that expects Research Ethics Committees to oversee such activity. The latest guidance on research governance procedures came into effect on 1 September 2011. The Gene Therapy Advisory Committee had been responsible for licensing decisions on xenotransplantation of animal cells (but not solid organs) until June 2011, when this role transferred to the National research Ethics Service (NRES). In due course, the NRES will become part of the body established under the Health Research Authority (Establishment and Constitution) Order 2011 and  Health Research Agency Regulations 2011, as recommended by a  report of the Academy of Medical Sciences.These regulations come into force on 1 December 2011. The Academy has also recently published a report on issues raised by animals containing human material. According to the MRC, trials of xenogenic cell therapy must comply with the Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product Regulations (EC) No 1394/2007. Hazel Biggs has also drawn attention to the conundrum of consent in this area of uncertainty, see Healthcare Research Ethics and Law at page 90. Perhaps it is time to revisit this area of legal regulation.

Nuffield Council’s Report on Human Bodies

In 2011, Human tissue, News on October 10, 2011 at 7:46 am

The Nuffield Council’s Report on ‘Human Bodies: donation for medicine and research’ will be published on Tuesday October 11. A launch seminar will be held that afternoon with members of the Working Party and guests discussing the Report’s conclusions and policy recommendations.

According to the Nuffield Council’s website, the two key issues addressed in the Report are:

  1. How far should society go in trying to encourage people to donate their bodily material? For example, is it acceptable to offer people money?
  2. What is the role of the government and others in responding to the demand for bodily material? For example, how can barriers to donation be removed, and how can the need for donated bodily material be reduced?

Further information, including details on how to book a place at this event, can be found here.

Storage problems? Legal principles on the storage of human tissue

In 2011, Human tissue on September 14, 2011 at 7:00 am

One of our HEAL UoS colleagues, Dr Remi Nwabueze, spoke last Friday, 9 September, at the inaugural symposium on ‘Legal principles underlying the law on storage of human tissue’, a two-year Oxford-Melbourne Research Partnership set up to explore how the storage and use of human body parts and tissue should be regulated. Remi’s paper was entitled: ‘Philosophical perspectives on the concept of property and its applicability to human tissue’, and builds on some of his earlier work in this field, including his monograph on Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property.