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Wilkinson’s discussion of the individual and family consent to organ and tissue donation is to be welcomed because it draws attention to the “incoherent hybrid” of the current position.1 I wish to highlight some areas of his discussion and propose that, in a situation of posthumous organ and tissue donation, the cadaver has no individual rights and family rights should under no circumstances automatically outweigh the potential transplant recipients’ right to a life-saving treatment.
Transplant immunobiology and clinical transplantation is a revolutionary area of medicine and has saved thousands of lives. In the UK, between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2005, organs from 752 people who died were used to save or dramatically improve many people’s lives through 2242 transplants.2 In the US, 23 506 transplants were performed between January and October 2005 from 12 084 donors.3 Information from available databases shows that demand for organs, cells and tissues has outstripped the supply. As of 18 January 2006, 6553 people are still waiting for transplants in the UK and there are 90 636 waiting list transplant candidates in the US.2,3 As of 01 January 2006, there are 15 977 people active on the Eurotransplant waiting list.4 It is likely that non-compulsory posthumous donation of organs has resulted in the loss of many thousands, possibly many …
Competing interests: None.
Funding: AC is funded by the Wellcome Trust.