Franklin G. Miller & Robert D. Truog, Rethinking the Ethics of Vital Organ Donations.


Franklin G. Miller & Robert D. Truog, Rethinking the Ethics of Vital Organ Donations, Hastings Center Rep., Nov.-Dec, 2008, at 38.

Although firmly entrenched, the moral status quo of vital organ donation poses a dilemma. On the one hand, the dead donor rule appears ethically necessary. It is based on the seemingly unassailable principle that it is wrong to kill an innocent person to save the life of another. Accordingly, it is ethical to retrieve vital organs only from dead people. On the other hand, scientific and ethical commentators have raised serious doubts about whether donors of vital organs are genuinely dead at the time that vital organs are extracted for transplantation.

In this article, the authors argue that it is time to both face honestly the fact that our current practices of vital organ donation violate the dead donor rule, and to provide a coherent alternative ethical account of these practices that does not depend on this norm. Others have contemplated or advocated repeal of the rule, but a systematic justification, including consideration of pertinent objections, has been lacking.

The authors contend that the proposition that brain death constitutes death of the human being is incoherent and, therefore, not credible. To be sure, brain death is a valid diagnosis of irreversible coma. No one who satisfies the criteria of brain death regains consciousness. Contrary, however,...

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