Brain Death and Decisions Regarding Organ Donation

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Published: 24 February 2015

Organ transplantation is an important field of medicine that helps to save the lives of seriously ill people. It is therefore all the more important that the population has confidence in this area of medical and nursing care. Everyone should be given the opportunity to make an individual decision regarding organ donation, based on sufficient information. This also applies to the determination of death itself. Transparency and an open discussion in society are necessary in order to strengthen confidence in transplantation medicine in Germany.

With its current Opinion, the German Ethics Council wishes to contribute to this discussion and addresses the controversial ethical and legal aspects linked to brain death and organ donation. These include the question whether the criterion of brain death is a convincing one to define human death, and whether brain death, even if it is not equated with human death, can be considered a sufficient prerequisite for the ethical and constitutional legitimacy of organ removal. In its Opinion, the German Ethics Council calls, amongst others, for improvements concerning information and communication on organ donation and for amendments to the legal provisions related to organ-protective measures.