A quiet revolution in organ transplant ethics

J Med Ethics. 2017 Nov;43(11):797-800. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2015-103348. Epub 2017 Apr 19.


A quiet revolution is occurring in the field of transplantation. Traditionally, transplants have involved solid organs such as the kidney, heart and liver which are transplanted to prevent recipients from dying. Now transplants are being done of the face, hand, uterus, penis and larynx that aim at improving a recipient's quality of life. The shift away from saving lives to seeking to make them better requires a shift in the ethical thinking that has long formed the foundation of organ transplantation. The addition of new forms of transplants requires doctors, patients, regulators and the public to rethink the risk and benefit ratio represented by trade-offs between saving life, extending life and risking the loss of life to achieve improvements in the quality of life.

Keywords: Quality/Value of Life/Personhood; Transplantation.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics*
  • Face / surgery
  • Female
  • Hand / surgery
  • Humans
  • Larynx / surgery
  • Male
  • Organ Transplantation / ethics*
  • Organ Transplantation / trends
  • Patient Selection / ethics*
  • Penis / surgery
  • Quality of Life*
  • Thinking
  • Uterus / surgery