European Journal of Anatomy

Official Journal of The Spanish Society of Anatomy
Cover Volume 12 - Number 1
Eur J Anat, 12 (1): 1-24 (2008)

The legal and ethical framework governing Body Donation in Europe - A review of current practice and recommendations for good practice

McHanwell S., Brenner E., Chirculescu A.R.M., Drukker J., van Mameren H., Mazzotti G., Pais D., Paulsen F., Plaisant O., Caillaud M.M., Laforet E., Riedere B.M., Sanudo J.R., Bueno-Lopez J.L., Donate-Oliver F., Sprumont P., Teofilovski-Parapid G., Moxham B.J.

Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Sciences, Dental School, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4BW, United Kingdom; Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Division for Clinical Functional Anatomy, Innsbruck Medical University, Müllerstrasse 59, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria; Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, C Davila University, Bucharest, Romania; Department of Anatomy and Embryology, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, Maastricht 6200 MD, Netherlands; Dipartimento di Scienze Anatomiche Umane, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia, Università di Bologna, via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy; Departamento de Deontologica, Bioética e Direito Médico, Faculdade de Ciêncies Médicas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 130, 1169-056 Lisboa, Portugal; Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg Große, Steinstraase 52, 06097 Halle, Saale, Germany; Université René Descartes Paris V, Faculté de Médecine, Laboratoire d'Anatomie, 45 Rue Saints Pères, 75006 Paris, France; Département de Biologie Cellulaire de Morphologie, Université Lausanne, rue du Bugnon, 1005 Lausanne, Suisse, Spain; Departamento de Anatomía y Embriología Humana I, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040-Madrid, Spain; Departamento de Neurociencias, Facultad de Medicina y Odontología, Universidad dei País Vasco, 46040 Leioa, Spain; Unit of Anatomy, Department of Medicine, University of Fribourg, route Albert Gockel 1, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland; Institute of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Dr. Subotica 8, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia; School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3AP, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT Discussions at the inaugural meeting of a Trans-European Pedagogic Research Group for Anatomical Sciences highlighted the fact that there exist considerable variations in the legal and ethical frameworks throughout Europe concerning body bequests for anatomical examination. Such differences appear to reflect cultural and religious variations as well as different legal and constitutional frameworks. For example, there are different views concerning the "ownership" of cadavers and concerning the need (perceived by different societies and national politicians) for legislation specifically related to anatomical dissection. Furthermore, there are different views concerning the acceptability of using unclaimed bodies that have not given informed consent. Given that in Europe there have been a series of controversial anatomical exhibitions and also a public (televised) dissection/autopsy, and given that the commercial sale or transport of anatomical material across national boundaries is strongly debated, it would seem appropriate to "harmonise" the situation (at least in the European Union). This paper summarises the legal situation in a variety of European countries and suggests examples of good practice. In particular, it recommends that all countries should adopt clear legal frameworks to regulate the acceptance of donations for medical education and research. It stresses the need for informed consent, with donors being given clear information upon which to base their decision, intentions to bequest being made by the donor before death and encourages donors to discuss their wishes to bequeath with relatives prior to death. Departments are encouraged, where they feel it appropriate, to hold Services of Thanksgiving and Commemoration for those who have donated their bodies. Finally, there needs to be legislation to regulate transport of bodies or body parts across national borders and a discouragement of any moves towards commercialisation in relation to bequests.

Keywords: autopsy, cadaver donor, cadaver transport, clinical practice, death certificate, dissection, Europe, geographic distribution, health care policy, health program, human rights, informed consent, medical education, medical ethics, medical research, medical school, medicolegal aspect, patient information, practice guideline, religion, review, traffic and transport

European Journal of anatomy
ISSN 2340-311X (Online)