European Journal of Anatomy

Official Journal of The Spanish Society of Anatomy
Cover Volume 24 - Number 3
Eur J Anat, 24 (3): 239-248 (2020)

Consent in Body Donation

Tom Farsides1, Claire F. Smith2

1School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, 2Department of Medical Education, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT This article explores potential threats to the valid-ity of consent in body donation and potential re-sponses to such threats. To minimize abstract generalizations, the article draws particularly on United Kingdom regulations but each of the issues it explores is applicable in many countries. Meth-ods used were searches of relevant (e.g., medical ethical) literatures using pertinent search terms (e.g., consent) and discussions with multiple stake-holders (e.g., family members of body donors). The main threats identified were: (1) failing to ade-quately acknowledge relatives’ roles in donation, particularly as donation often cannot be completed without relatives’ active participation; (2) failing to ensure that donors are informed enough to be able to give valid consent, especially given ‘specification’ and ‘temporality’ problems inherent in establishing consent for body donation; and (3) failing to genuinely prioritize donors’ motives and concerns during and after obtaining their consent. Possible ways of countering these threats include layering information given and made available to potential donors and having donors consent not to ‘donation and anything that might follow’, but in-stead to ‘relative-acknowledged donation, selective explicit consent, and delegated decision-making’. The latter involves donors specifying and relatives acknowledging donors’ key preferences and prohi-bitions, among which is nomination or acceptance of specified proxies who may make decisions on donors’ behalf after their death. By making such changes, the validity of consent for body donation could be substantially improved in ways that also increase respect for both donors and their autono-my. These changes may also increase the number of completed donations.

Keywords: Altruism – Body donation – Consent – Medical education

European Journal of anatomy
ISSN 2340-311X (Online)