Yearworth v. North Bristol NHS Trust: A Property Case of Uncertain Significance?

Shawn H. E. Harmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

It has long been the position in law that, subject to some minor but important exceptions, property cannot be held in the human body, whether living or dead. In the recent case of Yearworth and Others v North Bristol NHS Trust, however, the Court of Appeal for England and Wales revisited the property debate and threw into doubt a number of doctrines with respect to property and the body. This brief article analyses Yearworth, (1) reviewing the facts and the Court’s decision with respect to the originators’ proprietary and contractual interests in their body and bodily products, (2) considering the significance of relying on property and its use a legal metaphor, (3) questioning the scope of the property right created, and (4) querying whether an alternate conceptual approach to extending rights and a remedy was warranted. It concludes that, while Yearworth engages with, and impacts on, important theoretical and practical issues—from legal, healthcare and research perspectives—it does not offer a great deal of guidance and, for that reason, its precedential significance is in doubt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-50
Number of pages8
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • values
  • gamets
  • precedents
  • metaphors
  • treatment
  • property
  • healthcare


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