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Organ and Tissue Retrieval and Donation The Ethical Imperative

  • Albert R. Jonsen

Abstract

An organ, as defined in Taber’s Medical Dictionary, is “a part of the body having special function.” The entry goes on to note that, since most organs are in pairs, “one may be extirpated and the remaining one will perform all necessary functions.” In the accompanying alphabetical list of 32 organs, however, at least 13 are not paired and, of these, the extirpation of several, such as heart and liver, is fatal (barring their immediate replacement). Nevertheless, the dictionary’s remark is well taken, since the human body has a remarkable ability to compensate for the loss of its parts or to generate tissue. For centuries, this was important because parts were lost by accident or by deliberate extirpation in a surgical procedure. One ethical question was consistently asked about deliberate extirpation: Is it morally licit to multilate one’s body? The answer, from most moralists during those centuries, was “yes, if the loss of the bodily part is necessary for the health of the whole body.” Clearly, the physical and physiological capacity to compensate for loss of an organ, and even more, of tissue made that answer an easy one.

Keywords

Aplastic Anemia Moral Obligation Ethical Question Ethical Imperative Organ Retrieval 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert R. Jonsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical History and EthicsUniversity of Washington School of MedicalSeattleUSA

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