Spare Organs, Spare Tissue, Spare Genes?

Room 111 Birmingham Law School
Wednesday 25 January 2012 (12:30-14:00)

If you wish to attend please contact Dr Anastasia Vakulenko at

Regulating human material a decade after Alder Hey - lessons learnt or lost?

Staff Research Seminar: Professor Jean McHale (Birmingham Law School)


In 2001 the report of the Inquiry into the retention of human material at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital was published. Triggered by a major scandal concerning unauthorized organ retention the Inquiry report provided a devastating indictment of clinical practices. The Report itself and the subsequent Census by the Chief Medical Officer revealed the vast scale of the unauthorized retention of human material in hospitals and University Medical Schools throughout the UK. Frequently it seemed that excised human material whether from surgery or post mortem was being seen as “spare” or indeed “waste” material- which could be used for other purposes by clinicians or researchers without the need for patient consent. In the light of the resultant public outrage the then Health Secretary Alan Milburn committed the UK Government to reform. Eventually the Human Tissue Act was passed in 2004 which set out a new structure for the legal regulation of human material. The stables were eventually swept- or were they? A decade on just what exactly has changed? To what extent is our human material today- whether tissue or DNA subject to effective regulation? As we look back over the decade was this an effective legislative solution or a missed opportunity which has the potential for major problems for patients, clinicians and scientists in years to come? Have we truly learnt the lessons of the past? This paper explores whether there is a case both to revisit and reframe the law in this area.

Discussant: Professor Marie Fox

  • Staff Research Seminars take place at 1pm in the Senior or Junior Common Room, Birmingham Law School
  • A sandwich lunch and a glass of wine will be provided from 12:30 pm
  • Postgraduate students and academic staff are welcome to attend.

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