By Lisa Cherkassky*
The practice of allocating scarce organs in medicine is an ethical minefield. Due to the organ shortage, organ procurement agencies in both the United Kingdom and the United States are placed in the unenviable position of having to choose a limited number of patients to compete equally for life-saving treatment. They do this by composing multidisciplinary transplant teams, which must evaluate transplant candidates and their complex range of personal, medical, environmental, psychiatric and financial characteristics. During the candidate assessment process, such teams may often be torn between their moral duty to save those who are most in need, considerations of efficiency, and the battle against forming moral judgments about particular candidates. Several ethical approaches can be adopted by transplant teams during the decision-making process, but do these ideologies provide adequate justification for their sometimes controversial decisions? This article provides a detailed examination of the ethical principles available to transplant teams in the United Kingdom and the United States, and the effect that these principles have on assessment procedures, organ allocation protocols, transplant candidates and their prospects.
The full article can be accessed here: “Rational rejection? The ethical complications of assessing organ transplant candidates in the United Kingdom and the United States” (2010) 18 JLM 156.
* LLB, PGCE(PCE), LLM, PGC(HEP), Lecturer in Medical Law, University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom.