The Human Tissue Scotland Act 2006

The Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) deals with 3 distinct uses of human tissue:

  • its donation primarily for the purpose of transplantation, research, education or training and audit;
  • removal, retention and use following a post-mortem examination;
  • the purposes of the Anatomy Act 1984 as amended for Scotland by the 2006 Act.

The 2006 Act is based on the principle of ‘authorisation’, an expression which is intended to convey that people have the right to express, during their lifetime, their decisions about what should happen to their bodies after death, in the expectation that those decisions will be respected.

Authorisation equates to the principle of 'consent' on which the Human Tissue Act 2004 is based. The equivalence of the two principles is an essential part of the continuation of the arrangements for sharing organs and tissue across the UK in order to obtain the best outcomes for recipients.

The authorisation arrangements set out in the 2006 Act apply in the transplantation and hospital post-mortem examination contexts and relate to three categories: adults (i.e. those aged 16 or over who have the capacity to make their own decisions about these matters), children aged 12 or over at the time of their death, and children who died aged less than 12.

Section 6 of the 2006 Act provides that adults can authorise the removal and use of a part of their own body after their death for the purpose of transplantation, as well as for the purposes of research, education or training and audit.

In most cases, transplantation will be the purpose which motivates people to record their wishes, and this will most likely take the form of deciding to carry an organ donor card or adding their name to the NHS Organ Donor Register. Any other form of authorisation will however be valid, whether it is in writing or expressed verbally.

An adult can withdraw authorisation for transplantation, and for any of the other purposes at any time, but must do so in writing so that there is complete clarity about which wishes should prevail at the time of the adult’s death.

Access the Human Tissue (Scotland Act) 2006 (PDF 222KB)

Law change

On the 26th March 2021, amendments to the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 were implemented in the form of the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019.

This introduces a legislative framework for Deemed Authorisation.

Find out more about the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019