Human tissue transplants

ALRC Report 7 considered not only the use of human tissue and organs for transplantation but the use of dead bodies for the teaching and practice of anatomy and for the performance of post-mortem examinations.

The report gave consideration to present and impending human and social problems of profound importance such as euthanasia, the ‘right to die’, human experimentation, genetic engineering and the use of artificial organs.

ALRC Report 7 outlined that there were a number of fundamental social and ethical concerns that had to be taken into account and concluded that sensitive legislation that addressed the issue should be enacted.

Key recommendations

  • A new definition of death based on brain death should be adopted.
  • Donation of tissue by both living and dead donors should be regulated by legislation.


The Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1978 (ACT) implemented the recommendations of the Commission in ALRC Report 7. It enacted the new definition of death framed in terms of the irreversible loss of brain function and provided legislative regulation of the removal of human tissue for transplantation, post-mortem examinations and for use in schools of anatomy.

The Commission’s proposals have been adopted in all States and Territories in various Acts relating to the use of human tissue. However, since the introduction of these Acts, many advances in technology and medicine have caused governments and the legal community to review issues which ALRC Report 7 highlighted, especially with regards to ethical considerations.