Recycling Human Body Parts

Larry Klaes (
Tue, 27 Jul 1999 16:18:28 -0400

                Who Needs Bionics?
                Recycled Humans are Here

                by Jeffrey P. Kahn, Ph.D., M.P.H.
                Director, Center for Bioethics
                University of Minnesota

To quote in part:

Since transplants usually save the lives of the patients receiving them, the benefits of heart, liver, lung or kidney transplants outweigh the side effects of a lifetime of drugs and the chances of complication and organ rejection.

But what about transplants that may only improve function, appearance, or both? Are the benefits of such non-lifesaving transplants sufficient to outweigh their risks? Restoring basic life functions may offer sufficient benefit, say transplanting a hand to a double amputee or a voice box to a throat cancer patient.

But why shouldn't the gain in self-esteem of an accident victim who gets a new nose count as much? When the risks are made clear, and as long as claims are reasonable that the benefits outweigh the risks, then patients are in the best position to decide. Purely cosmetic transplants -- one can envision requests for newer knees or smaller ears -- wouldn't meet these standards.