Human Tissue Act 2004

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Human Tissue Act 2004[a]
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision with respect to activities involving human tissue; to make provision about the transfer of human remains from certain museum collections; and for connected purposes.
Citation2004 c. 30
Territorial extent England, Northern Ireland and Wales
Royal assent15 November 2004
Other legislation
Relates toHuman Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006
Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Human Tissue Act 2004 (c. 30) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, that applied to England, Northern Ireland and Wales, which consolidated previous legislation and created the Human Tissue Authority to "regulate the removal, storage, use and disposal of human bodies, organs and tissue."[1] The Act does not extend to Scotland; its counterpart there is the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006.


The Act was brought about as a consequence of, among things, the Alder Hey organs scandal,[1] in which organs of children had been retained by the Alder Hey Children's Hospital without consent, and the Kennedy inquiry into heart surgery on children at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. A consultative exercise followed the Government's Green Paper, Human Bodies, Human Choices (2002), and earlier recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

The Act[edit]

The Act allows for anonymous organ donation (previously, living people could only donate organs to those to whom they had a genetic or emotional connection),[2] and requires licences for those intending to publicly display human remains, such as BODIES... The Exhibition.[3] The Act also specifies that in cases of organ donation after death the wishes of the deceased takes precedence over the wishes of relatives,[4] but a parliamentary report concluded in 2006 that the Act likely would fail in this regard since most surgeons would be unwilling to confront families in such situations.[5]

The Act prohibits selling organs. In 2007 a man became the first person convicted under the Act for trying to sell his kidney online for £24,000 in order to pay off his gambling debts.[6]


The following orders have been made under this section:


There is no official report on the number of restitutions that have been permitted under the Human Tissue Act 2004. In the United Kingdom, museums are not required to disclose such information. The table below therefore establishes a non-exhaustive list of human remains that have been restituted following the implementation of the Human Tissue Act.

Institution Applicant Object of the request Outcome of the request Date and place of return Source
British Museum The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and the Australian Government Two Cremation Ash Bundles Approved 2006 – Tasmania Aboriginal Centre [7]
British Museum New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Seven preserved tattooed heads and nine human bone fragments

Partially Approved 2008 – Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand [8]
British Museum The Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners with the support of the Australian Government Two modified skulls Rejected - [9]
World Museum of Liverpool Unknown Five human remains Approved 2007 – Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa [10]
World Museum of Liverpool Australian Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination – Australian Government A skull Approved 2009 – Ngarrindjeri people in Australia [11]
World Museum of Liverpool Unknown A mummified baby Approved 2010 – Meuram Tribe from the Torres Strait Islands [10]
National History Museum of London Unknown Torres Strait Islander Bones Approved 2007 [12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Q&A: Human Tissue Act". BBC News Online. 30 August 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  2. ^ "Strangers allowed to give organs". BBC News Online. 25 April 2006.
  3. ^ "Body parts shows to need licences". BBC News Online. 15 May 2006.
  4. ^ "Radical changes for organ donors". BBC News Online. 31 August 2006.
  5. ^ "Transplant law 'likely to fail'". BBC News Online. 15 October 2006.
  6. ^ Stephanie Condron (11 May 2007). "Gambler tried to sell his kidney online". The Daily Telegraph.
  7. ^ "Request for Repatriation of Human Remains to Tasmania". The British Museum. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Request for Repatriation of Human Remains to New Zealand". The British Museum. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Request for Repatriation of Human Remains to the Torres Strait Islands, Australia". The British Museum. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Museum's commitment to return human remains". BBC News. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Transcript of the Returning to Australia talk". National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  12. ^ Feikert, Clare (July 2009). "Repatriation of Historic Human Remains: United Kingdom | Law Library of Congress". Retrieved 21 April 2021.


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 61 of this Act.

Further reading[edit]