Ethical Issues

The UK Human Tissue Bank has adopted the principles of the Research Government Framework for Health and Social Care, published in 2001 by the Department of Health with the aim of raising standards and clarifying the responsibilities of all parties in the research process. The proper governance of research is essential to ensure that the public can have confidence in, and benefit from, health and social care research.

The Department of Health requires that all research involving patients, service users, care professionals or volunteers, or their organs, tissue or data, is reviewed independently to ensure it meets ethical standards. We have for two years insisted that any research organisation wishing to receive a supply of human tissue from the UK Human Tissue Bank must gain the approval of a NHS Local Research Ethics Committee. In this way we can be sure that independent ethical review of research projects has taken place and researchers have assurance that their research proposal has undergone independent review and met ethical standards laid down by the Department of Health.

The entire document can be viewed at the following link:

The law on organ and tissue donation is under review. Hugh Whittall, Unit Head, Clinical Ethics and Human Tissue Branch at the Department of Health mentioned the consultation Human Bodies, Human Choices during his presentation at the British Association of Tissue Banks meeting in April 2003 and stated that the bill would be put before parliament "when parliamentary time allowed". A summary of the responses to the public consultation is available at the Department of Health website: and an interim statement " The use of human organs and tissue" published in April 2003 is also available on the website.

Human Tissue in the News

Organ and tissue transplantation in the media.
"Jamie's Wish", shown on BBC1 on Tuesday 16th December, told the story of a nine year old boy who saved the lives of several other people by organ donation after a fatal asthma attack. He had made known to his parents his wish to help others after his death. Jamie's parents were also interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 programme "Woman's Hour" this week. Further information on these programme is available from the BBC website, and information on organ and tissue donation is available from UK Transplant