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Ministry Reinforces Guidelines On Body Parts

The Ministry of Health is reinforcing advice to hospitals and medical schools that any body parts should be made available to relatives if possible, and if the relatives so wish, or buried or cremated following consultation with the local community.

Last year, the Ministry reinforced with health care providers the use of guidelines on the retention, removal or return of body parts for Maori, as a useful guide for all New Zealanders.

"As far as the Ministry is aware there is good compliance now with existing guidelines for obtaining informed consent for retention, removal or return of body parts."

The guidelines were developed by Te Puni Kokiri, The Ministry of Maori Development, for health care providers in 1999.

Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General Clinical Services Dr Colin Feek says since the Cartwright report in 1988, in New Zealand informed consent has been sought for all body parts kept for teaching, education or research purposes.

This practice was strengthened in 1996 with the Health and Disability Commissioner's Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers Rights. This outlined the need to ensure informed choice is made and informed consent is given.

Dr Feek says the Ministry of Health has always been aware there are some body parts kept at some hospitals and schools of medicine as is standard practice for teaching and research in New Zealand and the rest of the world.

"Where body parts are being kept it is generally for teaching or research purposes in museum collections attached to larger hospitals or medical schools.

"However, the organisations responsible for these collections, should review them from time to time to see if they are still required. If body parts are no longer required, where possible they should be made available to relatives who are able to bury or cremate them."

Dr Feek said where body part collections are historical, sometimes obtaining informed consent for the collections was not achieved to the level expected today.

"The Ministry of Health accepts it is not practical to attempt to obtain that now. In this situation organisations should follow the appropriate TPK guidelines for the management of their collections."

Two District Health Boards, Hawkes Bay and Bay of Plenty, last year, returned body parts no longer required for research or teaching, to their local communities for internment

Last year Greenlane Hospital began an exercise to ensure it was meeting the guidelines for managing its collection.


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