Transplanting the Body: Preliminary Ethical Considerations

The New Bioethics 23 (3):219-235 (2017)
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A dissociated area of medical research warrants bioethical consideration: a proposed transplantation of a donor’s entire body, except head, to a patient with a fatal degenerative disease. The seeming improbability of such an operation can only underscore the need for thorough bioethical assessment: Not assessing a case of such potential ethical import, by showing neglect instead of facing the issue, can only compound the ethical predicament, perhaps eroding public trust in ethical medicine. This article discusses the historical background of full-body transplantation, documents the seriousness of its current pursuit, and builds an argument for why prima facie this type of transplant is bioethically distinct. Certainly, this examination can only be preliminary, indicating what should be a wide and vigorous discussion among practitioners and ethicists. It concludes with practical suggestions for how the medical and bioethics community may proceed with ethical assessment.
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