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Anencephalic Infants as Organ Donors

Melissa Ferguson, JD
JAMA. 1995;274(22):1757-1758. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530220023012.
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To the Editor.  —The statement by the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs1 endorsing the qualified use of anencephalic neonates highlights the continuing dilemma of the national organ shortage. Other articles, such as those on mandated choice,2 also address this crisis. However, the solutions set forth would provide minimal, if any, impact on the number of organs available for transplant.Using anencephalic neonates for organ donors represents an ethically stimulating debate, but not a practical solution to the organ crisis. Whether or not surgeons use anencephalic infants as organ donors would only minimally impact the total number of pediatric donors available. For instance, the Medical Task Force on Anencephaly estimated that each year fewer than 100 infants in the United States would qualify as organ donors.3 According to another estimate, fewer than 10 patients each year would benefit from the use of anencephalic infants as donors.


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