Extension of organ transplantation: some ethical considerations

Mt Sinai J Med. 2003 May;70(3):141-7.


The concept of vital organ transplantation is critically analyzed by considering how traditional transplantation modifies the commitment to saving lives. Problems such as those associated with immunosuppression might seem to provide a compelling reason to oppose extension of transplantation to non-lifesaving situations. A closer examination, however, shows that immunosuppression does not present an intractable objection. For some organ transplants, such as the uterus, use of immunosuppression could be limited to the childbearing years. Complexities associated with assessment of quality of life are discussed using the example of hand transplantation. Assessment of success and functionality in a hand transplant is more complicated than it might appear at first. These complications suggest that monitoring and assessment should be a part of any extension of organ transplantation. Informed consent provides a limited, but important, component in justifying extended transplantation. Such justification, however, does not rest on patient autonomy, but on the reasonable prospect of benefit. Transplant programs considering an extension of traditional transplantation should develop formal protocols that include assessment of costs, benefits, quality of life, and the adequacy of informed consent.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Hand Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / ethics
  • Informed Consent
  • Organ Transplantation / economics
  • Organ Transplantation / ethics*
  • Quality of Life
  • Uterus / transplantation