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Organ donation

Organ donation is the removal of specific tissues of the human body from a person who has recently died, or from a living donor, for the purpose of transplanting them into other persons.

Political Issues

The medical need for transplantable organs greatly exceeds the supply. Nonetheless, many people are opposed to the transplantation of organs from cadavers, for religious and other reasons. The sale of donated organs for profit is prohibited in most countries, leading to underground black markets for some organs. Rumors and legends about "theft" of organs, though, are generally apocryphal. Finally, there is some controversy about the use of donated organs from executed prisoners, as is practiced in China and other countries.

There are also extremely controversial issues regarding how organs are allocated between patients.

Healthy humans have two kidneys, a redundancy that enables living donors (inter vivos[?]) to give a kidney to someone who needs it. The commonest such transplants are to close relatives, but people have given kidneys to other friends; in one case, a teacher gave a kidney to one of her students.

The Spanish transplant system[?] is one of the most successful in the world, but still can't meet the demand. Donations from corpses are anonymous, and a network for communication and transport allows fast extraction and transplant accross the country. Under Spanish law, every corpse can provide organs unless the deceased person expressly rejected it. Nonetheless, doctors ask the family for permission. The enforcing of helmet wearing for bikers, though, reduced the number of young healthy donors.

Under United States law, the law of organ donation is left to the fifty U.S. states. A Uniform Anatomical Gift Act seeks to streamline the process and standardize the rules among the various states, but it still requires that the donor make an affirmative statement during his lifetime that he is willing to be an organ donor. Many states have sought to encourage the donations to be made by allowing the consent to be noted on the driver's license. Still, it remains an opt-in system rather than the Spanish style opt-out system.

Blood transfusion is not generally considered to be a form of organ transplant, though many of the same issues can apply. The purchase of blood for transfusion was common in the United States until the AIDS epidemic made people aware of the risks of transmitting disease through blood transfusion. (A substantial number of the people who sold blood also injected heroin, putting them at high risk for AIDS.) Some countries only allow altruistic blood donations[?] to reduce the risk.

See also technology assessment and clinical death.

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