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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 00:53 GMT
Backing for tissue research drops
Doctors use tissue and organs to study diseases
A growing number of people are against allowing parts of their body to be used in medical research, a survey suggests.

Staff at the University of Newcastle questioned 100 people who attended a dental practice in the city.

One in five said they would oppose the use of their organs or tissue in clinical research.

The researchers say the findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, show recent scandals may have affected public opinion.

New law

The government is in the process of tightening up the law on organ and tissue retention.

The Human Tissue Bill will make it illegal for doctors to remove organs or tissue from patients without full consent.

A large minority of responders were not prepared to donate any of the listed tissues for research
Michaela Goodson
It is being introduced in response to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Alder Hey scandals. Doctors at both hospitals were found to have taken and stored organs without permission.

Michaela Goodson and colleagues carried out this survey to see if patients' attitudes to tissue donation had changed as a result of the "considerable negative publicity" from both scandals.

The researchers asked patients if they would be happy for certain tissues or organs to be used in clinical research. These included eyes, head and neck, lung, bone, heart, brain and embryo.

Of those questioned, 18 said they would not support these organs or tissue being used in research.

The patients were also asked what type of research they would like their tissues to be used for.

A total of 82 people said they would be happy for them to be used in cancer research.

Only 65 people said they would be happy for them to be used in genetic disorders, while just 26 people backed their use in cloning research.

The survey also revealed that not everybody would want to know if their tissue was going to be stored after donation.

Just 42 people said they would want to be informed if their tissues were going to be stored after donation and 35 said they would want to be consulted if their tissues were to be used for further research.

The researchers said the findings showed a growing number of people are opposed to allowing their tissue or organs to be used for medical research.

They pointed to a previous survey by the Royal College of Pathologists, published in 2002, of 2,000 people in Peterborough.

It suggested that 99% of people supported tissue donation from living subjects for research.

"Our study clearly showed that, in contrast to previous studies, a large minority of responders were not prepared to donate any of the listed tissues for research," the researchers said.

"The reasons for this are unknown, but could be the result of recent negative publicity surrounding post-mortem organ retention."

The researchers said more needs to be done to inform the general public of the benefits of allowing doctors to use their organs or tissue for research.

"Public education in understanding the principles and benefits of clinical research is an essential process towards the re-establishment of public confidence in medical research practice," they said.

Tighter laws on organ retention
26 Nov 03  |  Health
Massive rise in tissue donation
29 Oct 03  |  Manchester

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