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December 13, 1995

Anencephalic Infants as Organ Donors

Author Affiliations

University of Chicago Chicago, Ill

JAMA. 1995;274(22):1757. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530220023011

To the Editor.  —In reversing its historical opposition to the use of live anencephalic neonates as organ donors, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs of the American Medical Association (AMA)1 has wandered far from traditional notions of ethical medical practice and basic human rights.Thomas Jefferson, in defining the basic rights of citizenship, appealed to the concept of self-evident rights2—rights conferred neither by institutions nor by individuals, but belonging to human beings as such. These rights were "inalienable" and could not be relinquished (or "alienated"), even voluntarily. Because we recognize that individuals possess such inalienable rights to life and liberty we do not allow them to forfeit their lives by donating their essential organs or to voluntarily sell themselves into slavery.In abandoning the concept of an inalienable right to life, the Council has abandoned a fundamental safeguard of human life and liberty. In deciding that

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