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Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine

, 2:27

Ethical Considerations: Organ transplantation and the definition of death in medical practice


The issue of organ donation and of how the donor pool can or should be increased is one with significant practical, ethical and logistic implications. Here we comment on an article advocating a paradigm change in the so-called -dead donor rule-. Such change would involve the societal and legal abandonment of the above rule and the introduction of mandated choice. In this commentary, we review some of the problems associated with the proposed changes as well as the problems associated with the current model. We emphasize the continuing problems with the definition of death and the physiological process of dying; we discuss the difficulties associated with a dichotomous view of death; we review the difficulties with non-beating heart donation and emphasize the current limitations of society-s understanding of these complex issues. We conclude that public education remains the best approach and that such education should not be merely promotion of a particular ideology but honest debate of what is socially and morally acceptable and appropriate given the changes in vital organ support technology and the need to respect patient autonomy.

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Author: Rinaldo Bellomo - Nereo Zamperetti


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