Consent or property? Dealing with the body and its parts in the shadow of Bristol and Alder Hey

Mod Law Rev. 2001 Sep;64(5):710-29. doi: 10.1111/1468-2230.00347.


This article first considers the tenuous base on which the law of property in the body is founded, and then discusses the practical results of this in the light of the recent furore surrounding events at Bristol and Alder Hey. The authors suggest that neither the consent-based model followed by the official inquiries into these events nor a possible policy based on a full-blown property model adequately cover the private rights of an individual's next of kin or the right of the public to an efficient and reliable pathological service within the NHS. Rather, they propose that a combined model in which a 'cascade of possession' for the recognition of various property interests is initiated by assent on the part of the next of kin and terminates in full possession of the body vested in the execution for the purposes of its disposal. The authors recommend further that any reform of the law should apply property rights to body parts taken from both the living and the dead.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Cadaver
  • Family
  • Human Body
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Legislation, Medical
  • Ownership / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Third-Party Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tissue Donors
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / ethics
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United Kingdom