The legal and ethical framework governing Body Donation in Europe - A review of current practice and recommendations for good practice

Stephen McHanwell, E. Brenner, A. R.M. Chirculescu, Jan Drukker, H. van Mameren, G. Mazzotti, D. Pais, F. Paulsen, O. Plaisant, Maître M. Caillaud, E. Laforêt, B. M. Riedere, J. R. Sañudo, J. L. Bueno-López, F. Doñate-Oliver, P. Sprumont, G. Teofilovski-Parapid, B. J. Moxham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

185 Citations (Scopus)


Discussions at the inaugural meeting of a Trans-European Pedagogic Research Group for Anatomical Sciences highlighted the fact that there exist considerable variations in the legal and ethical frameworks throughout Europe concerning body bequests for anatomical examination. Such differences appear to reflect cultural and religious variations as well as different legal and constitutional frameworks. For example, there are different views concerning the "ownership" of cadavers and concerning the need (perceived by different societies and national politicians) for legislation specifically related to anatomical dissection. Furthermore, there are different views concerning the acceptability of using unclaimed bodies that have not given informed consent. Given that in Europe there have been a series of controversial anatomical exhibitions and also a public (televised) dissection/autopsy, and given that the commercial sale or transport of anatomical material across national boundaries is strongly debated, it would seem appropriate to "harmonise" the situation (at least in the European Union). This paper summarises the legal situation in a variety of European countries and suggests examples of good practice. In particular, it recommends that all countries should adopt clear legal frameworks to regulate the acceptance of donations for medical education and research. It stresses the need for informed consent, with donors being given clear information upon which to base their decision, intentions to bequest being made by the donor before death and encourages donors to discuss their wishes to bequeath with relatives prior to death. Departments are encouraged, where they feel it appropriate, to hold Services of Thanksgiving and Commemoration for those who have donated their bodies. Finally, there needs to be legislation to regulate transport of bodies or body parts across national borders and a discouragement of any moves towards commercialisation in relation to bequests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Anatomy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2008


  • Body donation
  • European Community
  • Legal and ethical aspects


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