The give and take of organ procurement

Douglas K. Martin, Eric Meslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Scientific developments of the last 20 years have made the transplantation of cadavericsolid organs a viable and expected treatment alternative for patients suffering from various forms of End Stage Organ Disease. Of the number of organs that could be utilized for this, only a small percentage of them are actually made available. North American legislation explicitly categorizes the transfer of cadaveric organs as an anatomical or tissue “gift”. The concept of the gift is mediated by transculturallyconsistent unwritten, but powerfully felt, rulesof conduct. Among the most profound elements of the concept is the obligatory gift-exchange which is central tothe gift-relationship. Obviously, neither of these are permitted by the organ transplant scenario.As a result, dissonance is created within the thought process of the individual which cannot be easily resolved, paralyzing many into inaction. We maintain that the present legal framework, designed to facilitate the transfer of organs, clashes with the human phenomenon of giving, and may actually prevent organs from being made available. In a search for a solution to this gift-relationship dilemma, giving organs is contrasted with taking organs as a basis upon which to ground ethically sound public policy. Liberty-limiting principles and the concept of harm are considered within this context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-78
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1994


  • Ethics
  • Gift
  • Organ transplantation
  • Procurement
  • Public policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy

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