Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Disposal of anatomical specimens, former anatomical specimens and body parts FAQs

Please see below for a number of frequently asked questions from a specific category. Simply select one of the questions of interest, the answer will then appear below. For the complete list of categories please visit the main FAQs page.

These are separate scheduled purposes under the Human Tissue Act 2004 (HT Act).

Anatomical examination is defined in the HT Act as 'macroscopic examination by dissection for anatomical purposes', for which anatomical purposes are defined as: 'purposes of teaching or studying, or researching into, the gross structure of the human body'.

Education or training relating to human health describes the education or training of healthcare professionals, such as those learning surgical techniques.

The HT Act defines an anatomical specimen as:

  1. the body of a deceased person to be used for the purpose of anatomical examination, or
  2. the body of a deceased person in the course of being used for the purpose of anatomical examination (including separated parts of such a body)

'Former anatomical specimens' are not defined in the HT Act. The HTA defines a former anatomical specimen as: 'An organ or body part donated for anatomical examination which is retained once the examination of the rest of the body has been completed'.

No. Although the term may be used by some staff working at anatomy establishments, the concept of 'one third of a body' has no legal status under the HT Act and is not used by the HTA. Independent of the HTA, professional guidelines have been drawn up by the Professional Guidelines and Practices (Anatomy) Committee and are available on the websites of three professional bodies which comprise the committee, namely: the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI), the British Association of Clinical Anatomists (BACA) and the Institute of Anatomical Sciences.

The HTA's codes of practice and other guidance should, however, be used as the definitive source of information for issues within our remit. If you are in any doubt, please contact the HTA.

Many people regard cremation as a more dignified or respectful method of incineration. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, two different sets of regulations govern the process of cremation: the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 and the Cremation (Belfast) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1961. Both sets of cremation regulations are outside of the remit of the HTA but fall within that of the Ministry of Justice.

The HT Act does not reference a method of disposal according to the type or size of the specimen or relevant material.
It is good practice for staff at HTA licensed establishments to agree the acceptance criteria for relevant material with their local incineration facility as part of any disposal agreements. It may be that staff at HTA licensed establishments are required to reduce the size of relevant material prior to it being sent for disposal by incineration.

As the Designated Individual (DI) at a suitably licensed establishment, firstly you should ensure the overseas supplier is reputable and that you are happy that the terms of the arrangement would be consistent with the HTA's code of practice on the import and export of human bodies, body parts and tissue.

We expect DIs to scrutinise any agreements with suppliers of imported material to ensure that they are acting lawfully and in accordance with any consent given by the donor. If an agreement stipulates cremation as the only method of disposal, and only incineration will be possible, we advise that the DI should first clarify with the supplier whether the meaning of the word cremation in the agreement is consistent with the definition of cremation in the UK. If so, the DI should not accept the specimens or body part as the wishes of the deceased could not be met.