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Ethics of limb disposal: dignity and the medical waste stockpiling scandal
  1. Esmée Hanna1,
  2. Glenn Robert2
  1. 1 Institute of Allied Health Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
  2. 2 Department of Adult Nursing, King’s College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Esmée Hanna, Institute of Allied Health Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK; esmee.hanna{at}


We draw on the concept of dignity to consider the ethics of the disposal of amputated limbs. The ethics of the management and disposal of human tissue has been subject to greater scrutiny and discussion in recent years, although the disposal of the limbs often remains absent from such discourses. In light of the recent UK controversy regarding failures in the medical waste disposal and the stockpiling of waste (including body parts), the appropriate handling of human tissue has been subject to further scrutiny. Although this scandal has evoked concern regarding procurement and supply chain issues, as well as possible health and safety risks from such a ‘stockpile’, the dignity of those patients’ implicated in this controversy has been less widely discussed. Drawing at Foster’s (2014) work, we argue that a dignity framework provides a useful lens to frame consideration of the disposal of limbs after amputation. Such a framework may be difficult to reconcile with the logic of business and the ‘biovalue’ of the medical waste, but would we argue afford more patient-centred approaches towards disposal. It may also facilitate better practices to help mitigate future stockpiling incidences.

  • human dignity
  • human tissue
  • quality of health care
  • business
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  • Contributors EH: planned and drafted this article, including conducting the background reading and secondary research. EH and GR: contributed equally to the refinement and writing of this piece.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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