The use of human body material including tissue and organs has been controversial for many
centuries. Concerns arose in the eighteenth century about practices used to obtain corpses for
dissection. Scientific studies in biotechnology have placed increased value on the body as a source
of research material. At the same time there is now a greater emphasis on individual autonomy.
Disputes reflect the striking differences between scientific or utilitarian perspectives and the body’s
This paper considers issues that have arisen in several countries relating to the use of body parts
and considers whether the law in New Zealand is sufficient to prevent such problems from arising in
New Zealand. The conclusion is that present legal structures are insufficient to keep pace with
technological advances. If biotechnology is to advance, it is essential to address the issues of
consent while respecting cultural and religious views of the need for respect for the human body.