Topic: Organ Donation
January 14, 2016 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, DPS, LMSW

“Of all the ways to be wounded,” regrets Jake from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, setting the stage for a narrative which implies the male character’s war injury to his genitals rendering him irreversibly and torturously impotent. Recently, the NY Times reported that research on penis transplants would offer a possible treatment option for men who have suffered injury to the groin in war or other trauma (www.nytimes.com-heal-troops).  To attempt to restore function and procreative ability cadaveric penis transplants will be undertaken as an experimental procedure. As noted in the article cited above, consent from donor’s family would be secured as with any organ donation. While some may find such surgical interventions to be less compelling than other transplants which provide life- saving organs (heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas) transplanting reproductive organs offers important benefits to patients.   

Uterine transplants have been discussed in the media recently, and seem to hold promise as these transplants have been done successfully in Sweden(www.nytimes.com-uterus-transplants ). Women born without a uterus may soon be able to receive a cadaveric uterus in the US. Unlike penis transplants which rely on exclusively cadaveric donation, live donation has been performed for uterine transplants in Sweden, and in time may also be available for women in the US.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

September 18, 2015 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, DPS, LMSW

Frankenstein might want to weigh in on the release of a plan to provide a new body to a Russian man suffering from the rare muscle wasting disease, Werdnig-Hoffmann disease.  Commentators speculate that the proposed fusion of “Mr. Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old computer scientist from Vladimir, Russia” to a donor body is unlikely to ever actually be performed due to the seeming unlikely odds that the technical challenges could be overcome. Nonetheless, this extreme experimental undertaking raises important ethical questions about how far to press the boundaries of surgery. At one time, hemicorporectomy surgery was proposed as theoretically feasible, and though the suggestion was laughed at initially, this procedure has now been done successfully multiple times, albeit with significant risk of mortality. If we are indeed embarking on a new path where the head of one living being can be transplanted onto another, we must attend to the underlying values that we ascribe to mind, body, and personhood.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

August 14, 2015 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, DPS, LMSW

Articles about improving organ donation registration rates by targeted social media campaigns have indicated that such efforts can successfully increase the numbers of individuals who elect to become organ donors (Pena, 2014) (Cameron AM, 2013). While it is acknowledged that social medial is a useful medium for generating widespread recognition of the need for organ donation, concerns about whether or not donor registration actually increases donation rates is left unknown. Additional concerns about such registrations meet the standards for informed consent. These are productive conversations, and social media holds tremendous potential for conveying information and generating levels of interest in topics at a ‘viral’ level.

Discussions up to this point seem to focus on donation after death, or in the context of imminent death. What has not been robustly discussed is the role of social media in the role of live organ donation. How should transplant programs view the relationship of acquaintances that begin on social media in the context of seeking information or support related to organ donation? Decisions to donate a solid organ, such as a kidney, ought not to be undertaken lightly, and perhaps the screening process will weed out donors with ambivalent intent or poor understanding of what they have offered a recipient. Given that concerns about informed consent have been noted in prior studies, it seems prudent to exercise added caution when approving donation transactions initiated via social media outlets.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

April 23, 2013 | Posted By Marleen Eijkholt, PhD

Medical situations can instantly change. This can be for the better or for the worse:  A patient who consistently refused to eat, now suddenly decides to eat. A patient who is delirious or manic threatens a staff member at 11:50, but subsequently seems rational and reasonable when we arrive in his room 15 minutes later. A stroke patient who does not communicate or respond, and who is likely to develop into a permanent vegetative state (PVS), perks up, talks and leaves. A patient, who is on the mend, develops a fever, requires a rapid response and dies. 

The ethical issues, similarly, change instantly in these situations. It requires me, as a new clinical ethics, to constantly redefine my perspectives. Where we plan to discuss placement of a feeding tube, the patient’s mood alteration resolves issues around placement and resolves the ethical questions. Where we address concerns around a safe discharge, we find out that the patient’s mood changes at 12 o' clock, and awareness of this time frame allows for a safe discharge. Where have family meetings to discuss quality of life in a PVS, this discussion is no longer necessary as the patient can be discharged.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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