The Developing Field of Human Organ Transplantation

Gary C. Randall & Janet A. Randall, The Developing Field of Human Organ Transplantation, 5 Gonz. L. Rev. 20 (1969)


Should circumstances at the time of my death make desirable and practical the transplanting and preserving of any parts or tissue of my body to assist with the life and health of other human beings my physician is authorized to arrange this, subject, if time permits, to the approval of the Medical College whose needs he shall, in any event, keep actively in mind.

These words, and words of similar import, mark the advent of a new era in human organ transplantation. By a legally proper indication of consent, nearly every person of legal age may today direct that upon his death his body, or parts thereof, be used for the preservation of human life and furtherance of medical science. To the extent that such a directive creates a right or interest in the donor’s body, this development represents a departure from the age-old common law, for there it was axiomatic that no one had property rights in a dead body. In fact, for many years no one particularly was concerned with such rights, aside from the often troubling problem of where and how the cadaver was to be disposed of. Insofar as actual, practical usage was involved a human cadaver was regarded as having no real value at all, except for a reasonable supply for medical school purposes. The last few years have brought a sudden change in this concept as modern medicine has made the human cadaver often the single most precious commodity in the world to the individual who must have a portion of that body to live-abortion the former occupant quite obviously needs no longer.

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