This time last year, the British research community was fuming over a piece of draft legislation that was, in the general view, a potential disaster for science. The Human Tissue Bill had been drawn up quickly in the wake of public outcry about the removal and storage of deceased children's organs at hospitals. It aimed to put consent at the heart of any situation where human tissue was being removed or retained.

But the bill as originally written would have threatened vital research, because it lacked clarity over issues relating to consent and anonymity of samples said many, including Robert May, president of the Royal Society, and Nick Wright, president of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust called the bill "a confusing mix of contradictions and ambiguities, which could result in an unworkable, bureaucratic system that stifles legitimate research." Wright's take was...

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