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Teenager and the transplant: how the case of William Verden highlights action is needed to optimise equitable access to organs for patients with impaired decision-making


In February 2022, the Court of Protection was faced with the question of whether a kidney transplant was in the best interests of William Verden. The case highlighted the legal, ethical and clinical complexities of treating potential kidney transplant patients with impaired decision-making. Above all, it exposed the potential risk of discrimination on the basis of disability when treatment decisions in relation to potential kidney recipients with impaired capacity are being made. In this paper, we draw on the Verden case to (1) examine the role of the Court of Protection in cases relating to patients with impaired decision-making capacity who require a transplant, (2) to highlight the lack of empirical data on patients who have faced inequitable access to transplant and (3) highlight the shortcomings of the existing legal and regulatory framework in England and Wales guiding clinical decision making for patients in William’s position. We consequently argue that there is a clear need for action to ensure equitable access to transplant for those in William’s position. Furthermore, we suggest that there is a responsibility incumbent on policy makers and clinicians alike to develop a meaningful, and meaningfully operational, framework centred on preventing discrimination against potential organ recipients based on their decision-making capacity.

  • transplantation
  • ethics
  • policy
  • mental competency
  • decision making

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