The ethics of elective (non-therapeutic) ventilation

Bioethics. 2000 Jan;14(1):42-57. doi: 10.1111/1467-8519.00179.


Elective ventilation (EV) is ventilation applied, not in the interest of patients, but in order to secure transplantable organs. It carries with it a small risk that patients who would otherwise have died will survive in a persistent vegetative state. Is EV ever justifiable? We argue: (1) The only thing which can justify exposing patients to risk not taken for their benefit is their consent, and we cannot rely on implied consent or third party consent in the case of EV. Thus absent explicit consent of patients, EV is not justifiable. (2) It is not clear that explicit consent should be sought, or where it is offered honoured, given the potential EV has for deterring organ donors and causing stress to staff and families.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Death
  • Brain Injuries*
  • Ethical Theory*
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care*
  • Moral Obligations
  • Persistent Vegetative State
  • Presumed Consent*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Third-Party Consent*
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement
  • Ventilators, Mechanical*