Operating room nurses holding the human organs for transplant

Hastings Center Report

Neither Ethical nor Prudent: Why Not to Choose Normothermic Regional Perfusion

Abstract: In transplant medicine, the use of normothermic regional perfusion (NRP) in donation after circulatory determination of death raises ethical difficulties. NRP is objectionable because it restores the donor’s circulation, thus invalidating a death declaration based on the permanent cessation of circulation. NRP’s defenders respond with arguments that are tortuous and factually inaccurate and depend on introducing extraneous concepts into the law. However, results comparable to NRP’s—more and higher-quality organs and more efficient allocation—can be achieved by removing organs from deceased donors and using normothermic machine perfusion (NMP) to support the organs outside the body, without jeopardizing confidence in transplantation’s legal and ethical foundations. Given the controversy that NRP generates and the convoluted justifications made for it, we recommend a prudential approach we call “ethical parsimony,” which holds that, in the choice between competing means of achieving a result, the ethically simpler one is to be preferred. This approach makes clear that policy-makers should favor NMP over NRP.

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