Description of The Living Organ Donor as Patient: Theory and Practice
When Joseph Murray performed the first successful living kidney donor transplant in 1954, he thought this would be a temporary stopgap. Today, we are no closer to the goal of adequate organ supply without living donors–if anything, the supply-demand ratio is worse. While most research on the ethics of organ transplantation focuses on how to allocate organs as a scarce medical resource, the ethical treatment of organ donors themselves has been relatively neglected. In The Living Organ Donor as Patient: Theory and Practice, Lainie Friedman Ross and J. Richard Thistlethwaite, Jr. argue that living donor organ transplantation can be ethical provided that we treat living solid organ donors as patients in their own right.
Ross and Thistlethwaite develop a five-principle framework to examine some of the attempts to increase living donation. It uses the three principles of the Belmont Report: respect for persons, beneficence, and justice modified to organ transplantation, as well as the principles of vulnerability and special relationships creating special obligations.
Their approach requires that the transplant community fully embrace current and prospective living organ donors as patients to whom we have special obligations. Only when living organ donors are regarded as patients in their own right and have a living donor advocate team dedicated to their well-being can the moral limits of living solid organ donation be realized and living donors be given the full respect and care they deserve.
About the Author
Lainie Friedman Ross, M.D., Ph.D., is the Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum Professor of Clinical Medical Ethics; Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Medicine, Surgery and the College; Co-Director of the University of Chicago Institute for Translational Medicine, Associate Director of the MacLean, Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and Director of Research Ethics Consultation at the University of Chicago.
J. Richard Thistlethwaite, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago in the Transplant Surgery Section of the Department of Surgery, in the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and in the Committee on Immunology.