Doctors advised not to advertise real skeletons as Halloween props

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Medics have been reminded not to sell real human skeletons on online auction sites or advertise them as Halloween props.

Current medical students use plastic replicas of skeletons in their studies, but in the past doctors used real human skeletons.

Now the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has issued guidance for medics about the use and disposal of real bones.

It said that it is occasionally asked about how to appropriately deal with human remains.

The medical defence organisation said that skeletons cannot just be sold on like any other unwanted item.

Its guidance on the disposal of skeletons reminds medics that they must maintain dignity and respect in the handling of all human bodies and tissue.

“For example, advertising a genuine human skeleton online for use as a Halloween prop could draw criticism,” it states.

The document draws attention to the strict rules on the disposing of human remains.

Dr Ellie Mein, medico-legal adviser for the MDU, said: “Medical students now use plastic replicas of skeletons in their studies, but up until 30 or 40 years ago it was common for those studying medicine to use a real human skeleton.

“At the MDU we sometimes hear from doctors and their relatives who literally find a skeleton in the closet and wonder how to dispose of it sensitively.

“There are strict rules about the disposal of human remains, meaning skeletons can’t just be sold on like any other unwanted item.

“In fact auctions sites such as eBay say they don’t allow the sale of human body parts, skulls or bones regardless of whether they are for medical use or not.

“The Human Tissue Act 2004 regulates the removal, storage and use of human tissue and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) recommends that the disposal of bones is done sensitively. This can include by incineration, separate from other clinical waste or burial.

“Another option is to donate a skeleton to a medical school for teaching purposes or give the skeleton to a medical student. However any medical school using body parts to train healthcare professionals needs the appropriate HTA licence.

“Any doctor considering disposing of a human skeleton should bear in mind that a key principle on which the Human Tissue Act is based is that all bodies, body parts or tissue should be treated with respect and dignity.”

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