Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Protecting children from forced altruism: the legal approach

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 27 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:240
  1. Linda Delany, solicitora
  1. a School of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester M13 0JA
  • Accepted 5 October 1995

The case of R v Cambridge Health Authority ex parte B, decided in March this year,1 highlights the lack of legal concern for children who become bone marrow donors. While the proceedings against Cambridge Health Authority chiefly aimed to secure further aggressive treatment for 10 year old B, who suffered from acute myeloid leukaemia, the case also reflected how uncontroversial bone marrow donation by young children is in Britain. The judgments recited without adverse comment the fact that last year B received bone marrow from her younger sister.

Nevertheless, it is by no means clear that harvesting bone marrow from a child is legal. Neither statute nor case law specifically sanctions bone marrow donation by a child. Whether the practice is lawful or not must therefore be deduced from general principles of medical law.

Two quite distinct …

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