Different standards are not double standards: all elective surgical patients are not alike

J Clin Ethics. 2012 Summer;23(2):118-28.


Testa and colleagues argue that evaluation for suitability for living donor surgery is rooted in paternalism in contrast with the evaluation for most operative interventions, which is rooted in the autonomy of patients. We examine two key ethical concepts that Testa and colleagues use: paternalism and autonomy, and two related ethical concepts: moral agency and shared decision making. We show that by moving the conversation from paternalism, negative autonomy, and informed consent to moral agency, relational autonomy, and shared decision making, one better understands why the arguments given by Testa and colleagues fail. We argue (1) why the hurdles that one must overcome to become a living donor are appropriate; and (2) that the similarities between living donor transplant surgery and cosmetic plastic surgery that the authors describe are inaccurate. Finally, we consider the recommendation to treat plastic surgery patients and living donors more similarly. We argue that any change should not be in the direction of becoming less protective of living donors, but more protective of cosmetic plastic surgery candidates.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Coercion*
  • Humans
  • Living Donors*
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Organ Transplantation / ethics*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Surgery, Plastic / ethics*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*