Human Tissue Bill is in need of further amendment

The Human Tissue Bill is in need of further amendment said the Medical Research Council (MRC) today (Monday 28 June 2004) as the Bill enters the Report Stage and has its third reading.

The principle of the Bill, to enshrine in law the obligation to seek consent from patients who donate tissue samples for medical research, is welcomed by the MRC. The Bill is broadly in line with the MRC’s existing best practice guidelines (PDF, 320KB) on the use of human tissue in research, published in 2001 after wide consultation with scientists and the public.

The MRC also welcomed the important amendments made by the Government to the Bill last week but said it remained concerned about the drafting of some sections.

The MRC’s main concern is the requirement that researchers must not possess any information that could identify the individual from whom the tissue has been taken. There are instances where research which, with ethics committee approval, requires linkage back to information about the individual, for example linking antibiotic resistance to prescribing practice. In its current draft, the Bill could have a detrimental effect on medical research.

Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the MRC, said: “It’s vital that the Bill both protects the rights of patients and ensures that medical research to benefit the future health of those patients and their families is able to continue. The Government’s amendments last week go a long way to reassure scientists but we believe the Bill still needs some additional amendment. We look forward to working with the Government and other Parliamentarians to get the wording of this important Bill absolutely right.”

The MRC’s views are set out in full in the document Human Tissue Bill - Views of the Medical Research Council.

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