The Council has set up a new Working Party to consider the ethical issues raised by the provision of bodily material, such as organs, blood, gametes, bone and other tissues, and whole bodies, for medical treatment and research.

We can provide our bodies or parts of our bodies for medical research or for the treatment of others in a number of ways and for a variety of reasons. While we are alive, we can give blood for nothing, donate eggs in return for fertility treatment, or volunteer for clinical trials for money. After we have died, we might want to donate our organs, skin, bone and other tissue to help others. However, there is a shortage of bodily material for many of these purposes in the UK. What should be done about it?

The Working Party, chaired by Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, will consider a range of questions, such as:
  • what motivates people to provide bodily material and what inducements or incentives are appropriate?

  • what constitutes valid consent?

  • what future ownership or control people should have over donated materials?

  • are there ethical limits on how we try to meet demand?

The group met for the first time in January 2010 and a report outlining the group’s findings, including recommendations for policy, will be published in autumn 2011.