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New Advice Note on samples, post mortems and disposal

28 June 2010

We have published a new Advice Note to clarify guidance on post mortems, the taking and use of samples and waste disposal.

This Note, which was approved at the June meeting of RCVS Council, will replace the guidance previously contained in Annex L of the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct.

The Advice Note (No 32: 'The use and re-use of samples, post mortems and disposal') highlights the need for veterinary surgeons to obtain informed consent when taking samples for treatment or post mortem purposes.

Generally, samples will be taken for a specific purpose, however, re-use for other purposes is permissible with the specific consent of the client. The circumstances where re-use of samples without consent may be reasonable are set out, including disease surveillance.

When carrying out post mortems, clients should be fully informed of the scope of the examination and their consent must be obtained. Clients should also be given the option of a post mortem by an independent veterinary surgeon. In these circumstances, the normal ethical rules regarding supersession and second opinions do not apply.

However, the original veterinary surgeon should be notified that the post mortem is to be carried out and may provide relevant background information.

When disposing of the cadaver, veterinary surgeons should seek the consent of the owner and ensure that any other party involved in the disposal is appropriately licensed. Sources of guidance and advice relating to the disposal of waste are also available for the assistance of veterinary surgeons.

Meanwhile, an Advice Note on ‘Criminal Records Bureau checks and the Independent Safeguarding Authority’ which was also approved at the June Council meeting will not be made available on RCVSonline at the current time, because we have learnt from the Home Office that the legislation is likely to change significantly in the near future. The Advice Note is available on request from

Further information on changes to the legislation an be viewed on the Home Office website.

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