How should transplantation legislation account for the legal rights of the human corpse?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The answer to this question depends on whether the corpse is protected by rights, whether it should be protected by rights, whose rights they are and why (and how) they should be balanced against the public interest in using it to save lives. All four questions appear closely related to what, exactly, a corpse is, a question which the law has not answered clearly.

England’s 2004 opt-in human tissue legislation made it unlawful to dismantle and use a corpse without explicit consent, a protection of the corpse that superficially resembles the bodily integrity rights of living persons. The Act was amended by the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019, which additionally permits dismantling with ‘Deemed Consent’, a kind of consent which does not require explicit consent at all. Some authors see this as violating a fundamental right of the corpse, but it is not clear whether such a right does or should exist.

In this thesis I explore the law that protects the corpse to determine what, if any, legal rights protect the corpse in English law, whether England’s current opt-out legislation accounts for them, and, if not, how it should.
Date of Award1 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJames Lee (Supervisor), Penney Lewis (Supervisor) & Antonia Cronin (Supervisor)

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