Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for October, 2007


Cash for Kidneys?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

In a move that is likely to stir debate, medical and public policy groups are suggesting some fundamental changes in the way we regard organ transplantation.

Consider the case at a New York medical center where a woman and her brother were both operated on at the same time. One of the woman’s kidneys was removed, but not for transplanting into her brother. Instead her organ went to a man she had never met.

At the same time, another woman had her kidney removed to give to the first woman’s brother (once again donor and recipient had never met). This idea was mutally beneficial, since donors and recipients were good tissue matches for each other. The operations were timed to occur at exactly the same moment, so no one could back out.

How much is a new kidney worth? With the advent of these so-called “paired exchanges” (the first was in 2001), some advocates are suggesting that kidneys should be considered commodities – that people could offer their own kidneys for sale.

A moment’s reflection will reveal some of the dangers of this idea. Think of the exploitation of the poor that might occur with schemes like this. After all, this has already happened in other countries, where rich foreigners “buy” organs – a sort of “transplant tourism” (see my blog post on this).

It is a disturbing thought that our body parts might be for sale. This seems like a bad solution to the problem of a shortage of donor organs. Such commodification of ourselves can only add to the devaluation of human beings throughout society.

[General News Article]
[Kidney Swap Article]

Bargain Abortions are a Threat to Women

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

If abortion can be done earlier, it can be done with fewer complications for women. So goes the familiar rationale for Mifeprex (mifepristone), the so-called abortion pill, developed in France by the designation ‘RU-486.’ Yet such early medical abortions are not easy. The pill must be followed up by a prostaglandin (misoprostol) which causes the uterus to contract. The combo of the two drugs causes an abortion in most cases, but may lead to persistent bleeding (over 30 days) in 8% of cases, and requires surgical intervention in 8%.

Of course, abortion is not even legal in some countries, and Mifeprex is expensive. What if pregnant women could just take misoprostol (the prostaglandin) alone? It is is cheap, readily available, and it can often cause an abortion all by itself.

A recent article in the medical journal The Lancet attempts to study this question (Vol. 369, No. 9577, June 9, 2007). Looking at data from five different countries, misoprostol was effective as the sole agent most of the time. All women were carefully followed by OB-GYN doctors, with follow-up surgical procedures performed where necessary. One Web-based article on the technique states: “In approximately 10% to 35% of cases, aspiration intervention is required.”

So is this a boon for the reproductive rights of poor women? How will this translate into developing countries where medical follow-up is almost nonexistent? Under the guise of ‘easy’ and ‘cheap’ abortions, the many complications from this short-cut technique may never be known. It seems that many women who will die of infection after incomplete induced abortion.

Oh, and by the way, a lot of unborn babies will die as well.

Misoprostol Abortion: Article

We Have a New Look!

Thursday, October 4th, 2007 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

The Center for Bioethics Web site has undergone a make-over. We have made a number of changes to make the site more user-friendly.

  • CedarEthics is now home to both the CedarEthics Podcast and the Director’s blog.
  • We include more photos of students and faculty engaging in activities related to bioethics.
  • Academic Resources (the heart of the Web site) are more clearly marked and easier to access.
  • Site navigation is easier and more logical.

Please let us know your feedback!