Big rise in donation of bodies for research
A growing number of Irish people are donating their bodies to medical science - but legislation covering standards in this area has not been updated since the early 19th century.
Almost 100 people joined the register last year, generously agreeing to donate their bodies to one of the country's medical schools after death.
This compares to just 101 donations in the entire decade between 1980 and 1990, giving tomorrow's doctors, dentists and scientists access to better training and research.
However, the Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors, has had to commission its own draft guidelines, setting out the current standards needed to protect such donations, as legislation has not been updated since the Anatomy Act of 1832.
The long-awaited Human Tissue Act, which would underpin in law the standards governing donations with 21st century guidelines, is still being drafted and the heads of the bill are expected later this year.
Medical Council president Dr Freddie Wood, a retired cardiac surgeon, said that those who donate their bodies and so allow medical students such valuable training were "silent teachers".
He said the Medical Council had been asked to take over the protection of these donations a decade ago. Following inspection, it was now satisfied that the conditions and practices involved in the various medical schools were fit to be licensed.
However, Dr Wood said the need for legislation "was accepted over 10 years ago by government and it is now overdue".
Prof Ceri Davies, Inspector of Anatomy at Imperial College London, who drew up the guidelines, said: "It is disappointing that uncertainty remains as to when the new regulations will be in place."
The Medical Council guidelines cover the proper storage, record-keeping, dignity and sensitive disposal of the cadaver. They also refer to frozen body parts imported here from the United States.