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Human Tissue Act 1961

Volume 980: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1980

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asked the Solicitor General for Scotland how many prosecutions have been brought in Scotland under the Human Tissue Act 1961.

The Human Tissue Act 1961 contains no criminal provisions. It is therefore not possible for there to be any prosecutions under the Act.

As deterioration of the kidneys sets in after 30 minutes, and since doctors by definition, must act in tense circumstances, are they not inhibited by the grey areas of the law? Is not there a case for looking at the whole code of the transplant law? If the Government are worried about public opinion, will they look at next weekend's Sunday Mail, where the public opinion survey will be very different from that of Marplan?

There are no grey areas in the law. The removal of organs without permission under the Human Tissue Act, or against the wishes of relatives of the deceased, would, of course, be theft. Since the procurators fiscal are responsible for carrying out investigations into sudden or suspicious deaths, in cases where there was any criminal suspicion they could not permit the removal of organs. But in cases such as road accidents, in which they also have a responsibility, as the medical authorities frequently advise them in advance of the possibility, procurators fiscal can ensure in advance that such organs can be released if they may save human lives and if permission is granted.