Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Glossary terms on consent and the use of DNA

These glossary definitions are specific to Section 45 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 which deals with consent and the use of DNA. This glossary should only be referred to if this section of the Human Tissue Act 2004 is being considered.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): A polymer made up of a series of repeating units. DNA encodes the instructions required to assemble cells and regulate processes in living cells. The instructions are contained within sections of DNA which are known as genes.

RNA (ribonucleic acid): A type of nucleic acid present in the nucleus, and occasionally in the cytoplasm. Cellular forms include ribosomal RNA, messenger RNA and transfer RNA. Messenger RNA can be used to obtain genetic information.

Valid consent: Consent which has been given voluntarily, by an appropriately informed person who has the capacity to agree to the activity in question. For more information see the Code of practice on Consent

Qualifying consent: This is whose consent is required to analyse DNA. There are different requirements for adults and children. Under the Human Tissue Act 2004 a child is defined as being under 18 years old. See also Flowchart B ‘Qualifying consent' and the HTA's Code of practice on Consent.

Bodily material: This is material which has come from a human body and consists of, or includes, human cells. This is different to ‘relevant material’. Bodily material includes relevant material but also embryos outside the human body and hair and nail from the body of a living person.

‘Excepted’ bodily material: This is bodily material which is excepted from the provisions of Section 45 of the Human Tissue Act 2004. Bodily material is ‘excepted’ if:

  • It is material which has come from the body of a person who died before the 1 September 2006 and at least 100 years have elapsed since the date of the person’s death;
  • It is an existing holding and the person who has it is not in possession, and not likely to come into possession, of information which could identify whose body the material has come from;
  • It is an embryo outside the human body.

Existing holding: This is bodily material held immediately prior to 1 September 2006. This is a different definition to the one in the HTA’s Codes of practice.

Qualifying relationship: Person/s who can give consent for the deceased person if the deceased person has not indicated their consent. For consent to DNA analysis, person/s in a qualifying relationship to the deceased are not ranked, as with the removal, storage and use of human tissue for scheduled purposes where consent should be obtained from the person ranked highest.
‘Excepted purpose’: If the results of DNA analysis are to be used for an ‘excepted purpose’, this falls outside the provisions of the Act. For more information on excepted purposes visit the section on ‘Consent and the use of DNA’ in the HTA's Code of practice on Consent.

Last updated on: 8 Jan 2015