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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 16:42 GMT
Tighter laws on organ retention
Doctors use organs for research
The government is to tighten up the rules on when doctors can and cannot retain dead people's organs and tissue.

Ministers used Wednesday's Queen's Speech to announce plans to introduce a Human Tissue Bill.

The move follows recent scandals at Bristol Royal Infirmary and Alder Hey Hospital, where children's organs were taken without proper consent.

However, the speech failed to include a pledge to introduce a new Mental Health Bill.

Mental health

A draft Bill published last year was roundly criticised by doctors, NHS management, patient groups and charities.

It aimed to give doctors more power to force people with mental illness to have treatment.

It will be vital to get the legislation right
Health Secretary John Reid
Ministers said another draft Bill will be brought forward for "pre-legislative scrutiny".

This will enable MPs and peers to comment on the proposals before they are formally presented to parliament.

Health Secretary John Reid said: "It will be vital to get the legislation right."

The Mental Health Alliance, which includes the Royal College of Psychiatrists and leading charities, said: "We hope that ministers will work with our members to develop a more appropriate legal framework for mental health and introduce that in due course."

But Marjorie Wallace of SANE said: "We would be severely disappointed if Dr Reid┐s announcement were used to kick the urgent need for mental health law reform into the long grass."

Meanwhile, there has been broad support for plans to tighten up the rules on organ retention.

Janet Valentine of Wrexham, north Wales, whose daughter Kayleigh was stripped of her organs at Alder Hey after dying aged less than five months, welcomed the move.

"It has made my day," she said. "I think it is wonderful news because although it can't help us it will mean that history won't repeat itself.

"We know that families won't suffer in the way that we have suffered."

The National Committee relating to Organ Retention (Nacor) said it was delighted by the plans.

Nacor founder Michaela Willis, whose son Daniel had his heart removed at Bristol in 1993, said: "This is what the families have been fighting for the last three or four years.

"It is an excellent move and while it won't help the families who have been through the pain of finding out their child's organs were taken it will be of some comfort to think it won't be allowed to happen in the future."

Organ retention

The proposed legislation aims to introduce new measures to ensure doctors obtained fully informed consent from relatives before they retain organs or tissue.

It will also create a new organisation, which will be responsible for regulating transplants, post mortems and the retention of organs for research.

The British Medical Association backed the move.

"The public needs reassurance that strict guidelines and procedures govern the use of tissues that are used for donation or research purposes," said its chairman Mr James Johnson.

Professor James Underwood, president of the Royal College of Pathologists, said: "I welcome the protection the Bill should afford not only to bereaved families, but also to those pathologists doing post mortem examinations who need to be satisfied that consent has been properly obtained."

However, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said a draft Bill should have been published months ago.

"The pressing need for legislation in this area was apparent three years ago.

"A formal opportunity for consultation on a draft Bill was promised this summer, but has been passed by.

"It is vital now to proceed with legislation but, to command confidence, must include further opportunities for full public consultation."

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