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Ethics and organ transplants

Ethics and organ transplants

  • If an organ is severely damage it can be replaced by a donated natural organ. Many people die every year waiting for transplants so the doctors need to decide carefully who to operate on.
  • There is a shortage of organ donors in the UK. Some people say it should be made easier for doctors to use the organs of people who have died as now family’s consent is required before they can use the organs for transplant.
  • Doctors use scientific criteria to consider the likelihood of success of a transplant:
    • have similar tissues (same sort of antigens so the organ would not be attacked)
    • Are similar ages (child’s organ less likely to be successful in an adult’s organ)
    • Geographically close – quicker the organ is transplanted the more likely the operation will be successful.
    • If the patient is very ill, they won’t be considered over a person who is healthier as they would be more likely to survive the operation.
  • People may also have to be considered if they will change their lifestyle:
    • Alcoholics have to prove they can stay off alcohol for more than six months outside hospital.
    • Obese people will have to lose weight.
  • Some people believe those who have harmed their own organs through smoking, drinking etc. don’t deserve an organ transplant as much as those people whose organs have been damaged through illness. However, transplant guidelines are not based on who would “deserve” a transplant but who is most likely to benefit.