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Where are we heading? The legality of human body transplants examined

Kristof Van Assche, Assya Pascalev
Issues in Law & Medicine, 33 (1): 3-18
In this article the authors examine the legality of human body transplantation under the current state of medical knowledge. The article first analyzes under what conditions an experimental medical procedure may be legitimately performed under international and national law. Then it examines the legal requirements for prior ethics approval and considers the possible civil and criminal liability claims and disciplinary sanctions that may arise if such a procedure would fail. Subsequently, it applies this analysis to investigate whether body transplants would currently be legally allowed. The authors conclude that it is very unlikely that prior ethics approval would be obtained, and emphasize that physicians are likely to be found liable for medical malpractice if body transplantation is performed. If body transplantation results in the death of the patient, the physicians involved would run a considerable risk of being held criminally liable for negligent homicide. The participating physicians also risk severe disciplinary sanctions for professional misconduct, with a real possibility that they will be suspended or even banned from medical practice for life.


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