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Amendments to Human Tissue Bill tabled
The government, after discussions with members of the scientific and medical research communities, has tabled a series of amendments to the Human Tissue Bill (see newsletter article December 2003). The amendments have elicited positive comments from stakeholders who have had concerns that the Bill, as originally drafted, would have seriously impeded medical research. The Bill was created to prevent another organ retention scandal like that at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. However, critics felt the Bill went too far. For example, they saw the Bill as attempting to outlaw the use of any human tissue without the explicit consent of the patient. Such a requirement could cause serious obstacles for researchers studying disease, such as limiting the amount of tissue available. However, some key parties see the changes tabled by the government as answering this and other concerns. Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust told the BBC, “We now have a proper and sensible balance between protecting the rights and confidentiality of patients and their families, and the need to safeguard research that will provide benefits for health in the future.” However, the final wording of the Bill is still yet to be decided; the Bill will have its third reading in Parliament on Monday, 28 June.