Ethical Controversies in Organ Donation

Assoc. Professor George Skowronski

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Lecture overview

Traditional ideas around the meaning of death have been altered irrevocably by technological advances from the mid-20th century. Modern definitions of death are problematic both technically and conceptually, and have been subjected to numerous legal challenges, especially in the USA. Studies by a number of groups, including our own, suggest that family decisions about organ donation place most importance on prognosis and consent, rather than the presence of death. Some authors have suggested that, contrary to what is assumed, principles such as the ‘Dead Donor Rule’ serve mainly to provide comfort for participating doctors, and are ethically unnecessary. Organ donation and the diagnosis of death remain ethically controversial in the 21st century.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of this lecture, the attendee will be able to:

  1. Understand the ethical pitfalls surrounding the diagnosis of death in the context of organ donation. 
  2. Understand the basis of some of the main legal challenges to the concept of brain death. 
  3. Recognise the ethical limitations of the ‘Dead Donor Rule’ in organ donation. 
  4. Understand that the main considerations for families contemplating organ donation are prognosis and consent rather than the presence of death.

This lecture is equal to 1 CE Contact Hour, 1 CPD Point, and 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit



Additional CME Info

Release Date: February 1, 2020, Termination Date: January 31, 2023

Accreditation: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of EB Medicine and Continulus. EB Medicine is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation: EB Medicine designates this internet enduring material for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ per lecture. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

Commercial Support: This activity received no commercial support.

Earning Credit: In order to earn CME credit, the participant must take the pre-test, listen to the lecture, take the CME post-test, and complete the post-test evaluation.

Duration 1 hour(s).

Lecture speaker

Assoc. Professor George Skowronski

Associate Professor George Skowronski graduated from Monash University in 1974. His postgraduate training was in internal medicine and intensive care medicine. He was one of the first Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) in intensive care medicine, completing his Fellowship in 1981. Assoc. Prof. Skowronski’s training included time spent in London, Melbourne and Adelaide, and his 40-year specialist career includes various periods in Adelaide and Sydney.
Assoc. Prof. Skowronski is an ex-President of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS), an ex-Chairman of the Intensive Care Specialist Advisory Committee of the RACP, and an ex-examiner for the former Faculty of Intensive Care. He was also instrumental in establishing the Clinical Trials Group of the Australians and New Zealand Intensive Care Society, which has produced a number of large-scale trials of international significance. 
Assoc. Prof. Skowronski has served as a State Councillor for the Australian salaried Medical Officers Association, a State Councillor for the AMA and an Adviser for the Health Care Complaints Commission. He is primarily a clinician rather than an academic, but has over 40 publications in diverse areas of intensive care medicine, including neurological disorders in intensive care and aspects of cardiovascular shock.


CME Faculty Disclosure: It is the policy of EB Medicine to ensure objectivity, balance, independence, transparency, and scientific rigor in all CME-sponsored educational activities. All faculty participating in the planning or implementation of a sponsored activity are expected to disclose to the audience any relevant financial relationships and to assist in resolving any conflict of interest that may arise from the relationship. In compliance with all ACCME Essentials, Standards, and Guidelines, all faculty for this CME activity were asked to complete a full disclosure statement. The speaker did not report any relevant financial interest or other relationship with the manufacturer(s) of any commercial product(s) discussed in this educational presentation.