Charitable State-Controlled Foundation Human Tissue and Cell Research: Ethic and Legal Aspects in the Supply of Surgically Removed Human Tissue For Research in the Academic and Commercial Sector in Germany

Cell Tissue Bank. 2003;4(1):49-56. doi: 10.1023/A:1026392429112.


Tissue engineering using human cells and tissue has one of the greatest scientific and economical potential in the coming years. There are public concerns during the ongoing discussion about future trends in life sciences and if ethic boundaries might be respected sufficiently in the course of striving for industrial profit and scientific knowledge. Until now, the legal situation of using human tissue material for research is not clear. Accordingly, transparency of action and patients' information are a central component when handling patient material inside and outside of the patient-specific treatment. Whereas in the field of therapeutic use of tissue (e.g. transplantation) there is an emergency situation by the shortage of organs with the risk of the premature death of the potential recipient, this cannot be claimed for tissue donation for research. The basis of every surgical operation is the treatment contract, which places the doctor under obligation to the careful exercise of medical treatment containing the patient's informed consent. This contract only covers the treatment that is intended to cure the patient and the medical measures that are necessary therefor. The further scientific use of body-substances, which are discarded after an operation, are not included. Therefore a personal and independent written enlightenment of the patient and a declaration of informed consent is necessary. Examples of guidelines for tissue supply, Patients information and consent were worked out by theologists, lawyers, scientists and physicians reflecting their practical experience in transplant surgery and liver cell research. As a consequence to cover the ethical and legal aspect of tissue donation in Germany a charitable state-controlled foundation Human Tissue and Cell Research (HTCR) was introduced and established.