Non-heart beating organ donation: old procurement strategy--new ethical problems

Journal of Medical Ethics 29 (3):176-181 (2003)
Abstract
The imbalance between supply of organs for transplantation and demand for them is widening. Although the current international drive to re-establish procurement via non-heart beating organ donation/donor is founded therefore on necessity, the process may constitute a desirable outcome for patient and family when progression to brain stem death does not occur and conventional organ retrieval from the beating heart donor is thereby prevented. The literature accounts of this practice, however, raise concerns that risk jeopardising professional and public confidence in the broader transplant programme. This article focuses on these clinical, ethical, and legal issues in the context of other approaches aimed at increasing donor numbers. The feasibility of introducing such an initiative will hinge on the ability to reassure patients, families, attendant staff, professional bodies, the wider public, law enforcement agencies, and the media that practitioners are working within explicit guidelines which are both ethically and legally defensible
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