Retained Organs Commission
Retained Organs CommissionAn advisory group set up by the UK Government in 2002, in the wake of the Alder Hey and Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiries, to consult the public on the fate of unclaimed and unidentifiable organs and tissues still in NHS collections after completion of efforts to notify families and return identifiable remains for “respectful disposal”. The consultation also had a wider purpose—to wit, to invite comments on proposals for a new regulatory framework to govern museums, archives and collections of human organs and tissue, including both postmortem material and specimens from living people.
The Commission’s consultations led to the creation of a statutory body, the Human Tissue Authority, whose functions include licensing of premises where collections are held, licensing of specific purposes for collections and licensing of curators responsible for collections. The Commission’s consultation was used to inform work by the Department of Health towards drawing up new legislation to replace the Human Tissue Act 1961 with the Human Tissue Act 2004. The Commission closed 31 March, 2004. One important point was defining "human material" or "human organs and tissues", and whether material tissue blocks and slides should be included. Most parties agreed that "replicable tissues such as blood, small amounts of skin, teeth, hair and nail clippings, and non-cellular material" are normally excluded from the definition, nor presumably extracts from blood samples used to obtain DNA, or DNA itself.