The British Parliament will this year pass a revised Human Tissue Act, prompted by a series of incidents in which hospitals retained children's organs without their parents' permission. According to the new law, scientists will have to obtain informed consent when using human organs or tissues for their research.

The new regulations will bring legal certainty to British scientists, but across Europe, they only add to the crosshatch of conflicting rules regarding the use of human materials. A few countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, already maintain regulations that govern the use of tissue samples. In other countries, it is often not clear whether and how existing legislation applies to human tissue research. As in the United Kingdom, these countries still need to establish consent procedures; create legal definitions for human tissue used for research purposes; regulate storage, handling, and disposal of tissues; and ensure both the anonymity and...

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