An ever-increasing demand for organs, with over 100,000 people on waiting lists, has driven a relentless search for new sources of organs. In 1995 the American Medical Association supported taking organs from anencephalic infants, children born without brains. In 1999 the Chinese government began removing organs from members of the politically outcast religious group Falun Gong, making a lucrative profit from sales to foreigners. Recently in Belgium physicians have euthanised a patient by removing her organs.The search for fresh organs began much earlier, in 1968, when death was redefined, so that well-preserved organs could be removed from brain-dead individuals. The early 1990s saw the introduction of donation after cardiac death, in which organs are taken from individuals whose hearts could still be resuscitated. Over the past two decades various countries have attempted markets in the sale of organs.Each of these sources of organs raises ethical concerns. Is brain death truly death, or by taking the heart of the brain-dead individual do we thereby kill him? When a person's heart stops beating is it permissible to prepare his organs for transplantation, even though we could choose to resuscitate him? Can we take organs from an infant without a brain? If a woman no longer wishes to live, can she donate her organs to others in an act of beneficent suicide? Is a market in organs acceptable?These questions and others are thoughtfully probed in this collection of essays, which features articles from theologians, philosophers, physicians, biomedicial ethicists, and an attorney.
Steven J. Jensen is associate professor of philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and specialises in the areas of ethics and medieval philosophy. He is the author of Good and Evil Actions: A Journey through Saint Thomas Aquinas (CUA Press).