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A quiet revolution in organ transplant ethics
  1. Arthur Caplan1,
  2. Duncan Purves2
  1. 1 Division of Medical Ethics, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, USA
  2. 2 Environmental Studies and Center for Bioethics, New York University, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Arthur Caplan, Division of Medical Ethics, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA; 10016; Arthur.Caplan{at}


A quiet revolution is occurring in the field of transplantation. Traditionally, transplants have involved solid organs such as the kidney, heart and liver which are transplanted to prevent recipients from dying. Now transplants are being done of the face, hand, uterus, penis and larynx that aim at improving a recipient's quality of life. The shift away from saving lives to seeking to make them better requires a shift in the ethical thinking that has long formed the foundation of organ transplantation. The addition of new forms of transplants requires doctors, patients, regulators and the public to rethink the risk and benefit ratio represented by trade-offs between saving life, extending life and risking the loss of life to achieve improvements in the quality of life.

  • Quality/Value of Life/Personhood
  • Transplantation

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed equally to the production of this article.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.