Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Consent for post-mortem examination and tissue retention under the Human Tissue Act 2004

This position statement outlines guidance provided on consent for post-mortem examination and tissue retention.

The HTA is aware that those taking consent for hospital (or 'consented') post-mortem (PM) examinations are not clear about the extent to which they should assure themselves that they are seeking consent from an ’appropriate’ person defined by the Human Tissue Act 2004 (HT Act), i.e. from a person in a qualifying relationship.

A policy has been developed for Designated Individuals of licensed establishments and HTA staff who are providing advice on this matter.

The policy gives guidance on the steps that should be taken to ensure that appropriate consent is obtained for hospital PM examinations. If followed, this guidance will help assure the HTA that those who conduct PM examinations ‘reasonably believe’ that they have appropriate consent, as they are required to do by the HT Act.

 In summary, the DI should ensure that:

  1. the consent form used during the consent process includes a question to prompt the consent seeker to ask the consent giver about their suitability in relation to a qualifying relationship.
  2. those who take consent for hospital PM examinations are trained in aspects of the HT Act relating to seeking consent for hospital PM examinations, including the hierarchy of qualifying relationships under the HT Act, the role of the Nominated Representative (NR) and the role of the consent seeker in asking the consent giver about their suitability in relation to a qualifying relationship.
  3. the consent seeker has documented clearly that they have explained the hierarchy of qualifying relationships under the HT Act and the role of the Nominated Representative (NR) and that this is recorded on the consent form.

The policy provides more detailed information and can be accessed on this website.

Issued March 2010

Audience: