The Ethics of Organ Transplants: The Current Debate

By Arthur L. Caplan; Daniel H. Coelho | Go to book overview
Save to active project

and Rationing

In light of the great shortage of transplantable organs in the United States, the transplant community has been faced with many seemingly unanswerable questions. In the first chapters of this book, we looked at supply-side questions of organ procurement; from whom can we retrieve organs? and How can we maximize the efficiency of organ collection? Yet, some of the most complex issues in transplantation ethics surround the distribution and allocation of the organs that are available. The resolution of the terrifying dilemma of who lives and who dies when shortage is a reality is an omnipresent ethical challenge in transplantation. It also means that transplantation has much to teach about how Americans respond to situations where rationing is inevitable as well as about how we might defend certain policies and practices when not all lives can be saved.

Two prevailing principles of organ distribution divide the transplant community. The first, maximize efficiency, would favor recipients for whom a transplant would ensure the highest chance of living a long and high quality life. The second, urgency of need, favors allocating organs to those who are the sickest and most likely to die. Both systems represent ethical positions but they lead to very different consequences in terms of who ultimately would live. Those who are younger, relatively healthier, have fewer complicating diseases and conditions and who have not undergone a transplant would be favored by a policy driven by efficiency in the use of donor organs. Those who are older, are at death's door due to the failure of a previous transplant or artificial organ or even a previous xenograft would go to the head of the waiting list on a policy sensitive to medical urgency and patient need.

Our current system relies more on medical urgency then it does efficacy—a system supported by members of the Pittsburgh Transplant Institute.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Ethics of Organ Transplants: The Current Debate
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 350

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?