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Bioethics. 1991 Oct;5(4):326-41.

Anencephalic infants as organ sources.


Liveborn anencephalic infants cannot be used legally as sources for vital organs in the United States and Canada. Understandably, knowledgeable physicians and bioethicists are divided over the ethics of such use and hold various views on whether the legal status of anencephalic newborns should ever be changed. Even if anencephalic newborns could be utilized as organ sources, at best a few hundred infants needing transplant organs would be saved each year. Primarily, this is because the number of anencephalic newborns is likely to diminish due to prenatal diagnosis resulting in abortions. However, the case of anencephalic infants and their treatment is paradigmatic in raising questions far beyond mere organ transplantation.... This analytical report is given against the backdrop of a burgeoning medical technology which can sustain human life far beyond that generally regarded as a meaningful, functional life. The report has three sections: first, a description of the approaches to the use of anencephalic infants in North America over the last five years; second, a summary of the results of a survey of informed clinicians and ethicists; and third, an indication of the leading ethical issues raised by human individuals at the border of life.

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