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Hca 322 Health Care Ethics and Medical Law - Organ Donation

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MARCH 21,2012


Although the idea of organ transplantation is an old one, successful transplantation did not

occur until the Twentieth Century. When different blood types and their respective compatibility

or incompatibility, as well as a method of preserving blood, were discovered, blood transfusions

became an accepted medical procedure. Dr. Emmerich Ullmann experimented on dogs with

kidney transplants in the early 1900's. He found that the transplanted organ functioned longer, the

closer the donor and recipient were genetically related. In the early 1940's Dr. Peter Medawar and

his team experimented with rabbits. They began to understand the immune system which exists

in higher animals and human beings. Antigens, on the surface of cells, enable higher organisms

to recognize a foreign body. They stimulate the production of antibodies which are important in

fighting infection. The more similar the tissues' antigens, of donor and recipient, the less likely

they are to recognize each other as alien bodies. Tissue typing and matching is based on this.

Rejection remains one of the main causes of failure in organ transplantation because it is difficult

to find completely matching tissues. New drugs greatly ease the rejection problem. In the case of

a successful kidney transplant the costs related to the transplant and the required drugs are

cheaper than the alternative of renal dialysis. The quality of life of the recipient is also better.

Experiments continue to be done to try to improve the technology and possibilities regarding

transplantation. For example, research is being done regarding human cell cultures, transplants

from human fetuses, including brain tissue, and from animals to human beings. The latter

includes attempts to genetically design animals with organs that are less likely to be rejected by

human beings. Some animal products (e.g. insulin and pig heart valves) are already used

regularly. Research also continues to be done to improve artificial organs and other artificial aids

to human functioning. The ethical and legal issues related to organ and tissue procurement and


transplantation are often discussed in light of such principles as autonomy, benevolence, non-

maleficence, free and informed consent, respecting the dignity, integrity and equality of human

beings, fairness, and the common good. The various aspects, parts and functions of a human

person participate in this. In the donation and transplantation of human organs, respect is to be

given to the rights of the donor, the recipient and the common good of society.

In general it is seen as praiseworthy to will one's body or parts of one's body for the benefit of

others after one's death. Taking into consideration the important advances made in surgical

techniques and in the means to increase tolerance to transplants, this group holds that transplants

deserve the support of the medical profession, of the law, and of people in general. The donation

of organs should, in all circumstances, respect the last will of the donor, or the consent of the

family present. Such a donation can greatly benefit others and cannot harm the donor who is

dead. Not to offer such a donation can be a sign of indifference to the welfare of others. To

donate, however, is not considered obligatory. Transplantation is against some people's

consciences for religious or other reasons. Consideration for the sensibilities of the survivors may

also make some people hesitate to sign over their bodies. In any case proper respect should

always be shown human cadaver. Although they are by no means on par with a living human

body/person, they once bore the presence of a living person. The probably dying potential donor

should be provided the usual care that should be given to any critically ill or dying person.

Because of a potential conflict of interest, it is widely agreed that the transplant team should be

different from the team providing care for the potential donor, who is not to be deprived of life or




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