Regulating Transfer and Use of Fetal Tissue in Transplantation Procedures: The Ethical Dimensions

19 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2017

Date Written: September 30, 1993


Fetal tissue transplants have shown great potential as a treatment for Parkinson's disease and other debilitating diseases. Because usable fetal tissue is generally obtained from abortions, political opposition to abortion serves an an impediment to developing these promising treatments. Some opponents of fetal tissue transplantation fear that transplant surgeons could join forces with physicians who perform abortions, and encourage women to obtain abortions so that fetal tissue can be harvested. Others fear that women will intentionally become pregnant in order to donate fetal tissue. Safeguards can be put in place to allay their fears, however. Women obtaining abortions could be offered the option of donating the tissue, without having an opportunity to designate the tissue recipient; and donors' identities could be withheld from recipients of therapeutic transfers. Transplant surgeons should be separated from women's decisions regarding whether to have an abortion. Finally, in considering the role women obtaining abortions should have in decisions about disposal of fetal remains, we should not use as a model parents' medical decisions on behalf of their children. Instead, we should focus on avoiding fetal tissue disposal policies that unduly burden a woman's abortion decision.

Keywords: Fetal Tissue, Donor Designation, Anatomical Gift, Proxy Consent, Substituted Judgment, Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, Proximity Principle

JEL Classification: I00, I18, I19, K00, K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Bell, Melina, Regulating Transfer and Use of Fetal Tissue in Transplantation Procedures: The Ethical Dimensions (September 30, 1993). American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. XX, No. 3, 1994, Available at SSRN:

Melina Bell (Contact Author)

W&L University ( email )

204 W. Washington St.
Lexington, VA 24450
United States

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