J Med Ethics 39:130-134 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100992
  • Elective ventilation
  • Paper

Elective ventilation for organ donation: law, policy and public ethics

Open AccessEditor's Choice
  1. John Coggon
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Coggon, Southampton Law School, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK; john.coggon{at}
  • Received 31 July 2012
  • Revised 4 November 2012
  • Accepted 9 November 2012
  • Published Online First 7 December 2012


This paper examines questions concerning elective ventilation, contextualised within English law and policy. It presents the general debate with reference both to the Exeter Protocol on elective ventilation, and the considerable developments in legal principle since the time that that protocol was declared to be unlawful. I distinguish different aspects of what might be labelled elective ventilation policies under the following four headings: ‘basic elective ventilation’; ‘epistemically complex elective ventilation’; ‘practically complex elective ventilation’; and ‘epistemically and practically complex elective ventilation’. I give a legal analysis of each. In concluding remarks on their potential practical viability, I emphasise the importance not just of ascertaining the legal and ethical acceptability of these and other forms of elective ventilation, but also of assessing their professional and political acceptability. This importance relates both to the successful implementation of the individual practices, and to guarding against possible harmful effects in the wider efforts to increase the rates of posthumous organ donation.

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