Where do organs come from? What kind of organs and tissues are used? What sorts of people are they coming from? Are people the only sources of organs and tissues used in transplantation? Fifty years ago these questions would be science fiction, not science. Advances in surgery, immunology, and pharmacology have made possible the transplantation of hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs, pancreases, bone marrow, skin, and corneas. Yet, along with these technological advances, society has had to explore new and often controversial sources to alleviate a scarcity of useable organs and tissues.
New technologies like transplantation force society to continually reexamine the value and boundaries of life and death. The procurement of organs from deceased individuals (with their prior permission) to be used for transplantation would appear to be straightforward and ethically uncontroversial. But how do we define "deceased"? Is death an event or a process? Is it when your heart stops? Is it brain death? If so, how do you define "brain death"? Barbara Ott addresses precisely these issues in her analysis of theoretical perspectives on defining death. Robert Truog asserts that the current definitions of death may not make either ethical or practical sense, especially with respect to organ procurement. Both of these articles provoke the reader to understand that where the line is drawn between life and death is not simply a matter of biological or medical facts.
Certain organs need not always come from the deceased. In fact, for reasons of histocompatibility, organs from living donors are often preferred. Usually, these organs are donated by a relative, e.g., a mother donating a kidney to her child, a brother donating bone marrow to his twin, a cousin donating a lobe of her lung to her baby niece. However, living related transplants themselves have come under close scrutiny from the medical and