Harvesting the living?: Separating brain death and organ transplantation

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 14 (3):301-318 (2004)
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: The chronic shortage of transplantable organs has reached critical proportions. In the wake of this crisis, some bioethicists have argued there is sufficient public support to expand organ recovery through use of neocortical criteria of death or even pre-mortem organ retrieval. I present a typology of ways in which data gathered from the public can be misread or selectively used by bioethicists in service of an ideological or policy agenda, resulting in bad policy and bad ethics. Such risks should lead us to look at alternatives for increasing organ supplies short of expanding or abandoning the dead donor rule. The chronic problem of organ scarcity should prompt bioethicists to engage in constructive dialogue about the relation of the social sciences and bioethics, to examine the social malleability of the definition of death, and to revisit the question of the priority of organ transplants in the overall package of healthcare benefits provided to most, but not all, citizens.



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