Research colloquium organised by the Paul Scholten Centre
In the Netherlands, when body parts are amputated as part of a medical procedure, the patient's consent is required if this body part is used for or subjected to medical tests. However, according to our research among Dutch hospitals, the patient's consent is rarely obtained, when body parts are discarded as 'pathological waste'. This raises concerns, as patients have good reasons and distinct rights to demand a different fate for their amputated limb, such as a burial or cremation. We analysed the legal status of an amputated body part and concluded that, legally, the amputated part does not belong to the hospital or doctor and can therefore not be disposed of at whim in accordance with the hospital's wishes. Doctors have an obligation to actively inform their patients of their property rights over their amputated limbs and of the alternatives to disposal that are available. Doctors might find themselves exposed to tortuous liability procedures if they dispose of amputated body parts without proper consent.
Bart Jansen is assistent professor law, philosophy and ethics at Nyenrode Business University.
Rogier Baart is maritime laywer at Caland Attorneys, and lecturer Business Law at Nyenrode Business University.
For more information please contact Roland Pierik (R.Pierik@uva.nl)