"The severe shortage of viable organs for transplantation in the U.S. has led a transplant surgeon to propose harvesting kidneys from people who are not dead yet. Dr. Paul Morrissey, an associate professor of surgery at Brown University's Alpert Medical School, wrote in The American Journal of Bioethics that the protocol known as donation after cardiac death -- meaning death as a result of irreversible damage to the cardiovascular system -- has increased the number of organs available for transplant, but has a number of limitations, including the need to wait until the heart stops.
Because of the waiting time, Morrissey said that about one-third of potential donors end up not being able to donate, and many organs turn out to not be viable as a result. Instead, he argues in favor of procuring kidneys from patients with severe irreversible brain injury whose families consent to kidney removal before their cardiac and respiratory systems stop functioning."
The article was sent to me by frequent CD commenter Methinks, who provided these insightful comments by email about kidneys:
"It strikes me as odd that it's okay for the unwitting donor's family and his doctor to make the decision to remove his kidneys (both, as it turns out) without his consent, but it is not okay for the donor to decide to sell his own organs. If nothing else, it illustrates the desperate need for organs, but the obvious solution still eludes them. For some reason, theft is considered ethical, but a voluntary sale of one's organs is not. It is ethical for other people to decide for you what should be done with your vital organs when you are incapacitated, but it is not okay for you to decide for yourself when you are in command of your faculties. It's a twisted world."