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Routine recovery: an ethical plan for greatly increasing the supply of transplantable organs

Spital, Aarona; Taylor, James Sb

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: April 2008 - Volume 13 - Issue 2 - p 202–206
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0b013e3282f45ad6
Ethical, legal and financial considerations: Edited by Kathy Coffman

Purpose of review All current organ procurement policies require some form of consent. Many families refuse to permit organ recovery from a recently deceased relative; therefore, the major cost of requiring consent is the loss of some lives that could have been saved through transplantation. Here, we argue for a much more efficient approach to organ procurement from brain dead individuals – routine recovery of all transplantable organs without consent.

Recent findings Careful analysis of the relevant literature shows that, compared with its competitors, routine recovery has the greatest potential to increase cadaveric organ procurement and save lives while causing very little harm. Furthermore, a recent survey suggests that 30% of the US public would already accept routine recovery even though the respondents were not educated regarding the value of this approach.

Summary Patients on the transplant waiting list are dying while organs that could have saved them are being buried or burned because of family refusal to allow posthumous organ procurement. Routine recovery would eliminate this tragic loss of life-saving organs without violating ethical principles. Indeed, we argue that of all the proposals designed to increase the supply of transplantable cadaveric organs, routine recovery is the best.

aThe Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Elmhurst Hospital Center, Elmhurst, New York, USA

bThe College of New Jersey, Department of Philosophy, Ewing, New Jersey, USA

Correspondence to Aaron Spital, MD, Elmhurst Hospital Center, C7-10, 79-01 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373, USA E-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.