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Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 37395, tabled on 21 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether it is lawful for bodies to be released from a mortuary without their identity being checked by either party.

Answered on

6 September 2021

The Department has not had specific discussions. The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is responsible, under the Human Tissue Act 2004, for licensing mortuaries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which undertake post-mortem examinations. The Human Tissue Act requires the HTA to prepare Codes of Practice on the standards expected by mortuaries in relation to carrying out activities in the making of post-mortems. In preparing their Codes of Practice the HTA consulted with the Department and appropriate stakeholders on the required standards.

The HTA’s licensing standards require licensed mortuaries to record all body release details in a mortuary register, including the date and name of the person who released the body and to whom it was released. It also expects that the identity of a body is specifically checked upon release from a licensed mortuary using three identifiers which are attached directly to the deceased, usually on a wristband and also securely attached to the outside of the body bag.

The HTA’s inspectors test that establishments meet these standards through regular traceability audits. Each licensed establishment must have a Designated Individual who has a legal duty to ensure that suitable practices are carried out by suitably trained people. This ensures that practices for identifying and documenting the deceased upon their release are robust.

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