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The ethics of non-heart-beating donation: how new technology can change the ethical landscape


The global shortage of organs for transplantation and the development of new and better medical technologies for organ preservation have resulted in a renewed interest in non-heart-beating donation (NHBD). This article discusses ethical questions related to controlled and uncontrolled NHBD. It argues that certain preparative measures, such as giving anticoagulants, should be acceptable before patients are dead, but when they have passed a point where further curative treatment is futile, they are in the process of dying and they are unconscious. Furthermore, the article discusses consequences of technological developments based on improvement of a chest compression apparatus used today to make mechanical heart resuscitation. Such technological development can be used to transform cases of non-controlled NHBD to controlled NHBD. In our view, this is a step forward since the ethical difficulties related to controlled NHBD are easier to solve than those related to non-controlled NHBD. However, such technological developments also evoke other ethical questions.

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