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Human tissue: ethical and legal issues

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 03 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1423
  1. Sheila McLean
  1. International Bar Association professor of law and ethics in medicine School of Law, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ

    The report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides a coherent legal and ethical approach

    Advances in biotechnology and increasing public concern about the uses to which human tissue may, can, or should be put make the recent report of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics timely and important.1 It provides a lucid, rigorous, and balanced view of the dilemmas that the potential scientific uses of human tissue pose for ethics and the law. The report is wide in its approach, dealing with everything from physical and intellectual property rights to confidentiality, compensation, and capacity.

    In its coverage of ethics the report takes an imaginative, although not unarguable, approach which effectively eschews strict adherence to more traditional approaches (such as utilitarianism), concentrating instead on two fundamental principles—the avoidance and limitation of injury and (a secondary consideration) matters of consent. This approach seeks to provide a form of practical ethics that the more standard theories have, in the …

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