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December 13, 1995

Anencephalic Infants as Organ Donors

Author Affiliations

St Mary's Hospital Rochester, NY

JAMA. 1995;274(22):1758. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530220023014

To the Editor.  —The authors of the article on the use of anencephalic neonates as organ donors1 have taken a most unethical and injudicious step in proposing a violation of the dead donor rule. The very language they use—"anencephalic neonates" as opposed to "the infant with anencephaly"2-bespeaks a degrading value judgment with which the mother of Baby K3 and, indeed, the mothers of most such infants vehemently disagree. Infants with this horrific anomaly remain human beings in the same sense that infants with severe spinal muscular atrophy are human beings, even though neither can articulate the consciousness that we "know" is present in the latter condition (because infants with severe spinal muscular atrophy have cerebral hemispheres) and "know" is absent in the former (because infants with anencephaly do not). What evidence can the authors adduce to defend their knowledge that infants with anencephaly lack consciousness?In

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