Research Involving the Recently Deceased: Ethics Questions That Must be Answered


Brendan Parent, Olivia S. Kates, Wadih Arap, Arthur Caplan, Brian Childs, Neal W. Dickert, Mary Homan, Kathy Kinlaw, Ayannah Lang, Stephen Latham, Macey L. Levan, Robert D. Truog, Adam Webb, Paul Root Wolpe, and Rebecca D. Pentz

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Parent B, Kates OS, Arap W, et al. Research involving the recently deceased: ethics questions that must be answered. Journal of Medical Ethics Published Online First: 08 December 2023. doi: 10.1136/jme-2023-109413
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Research involving recently deceased humans that are physiologically maintained following declaration of death by neurologic criteria—or ‘research involving the recently deceased’—can fill a translational research gap while reducing harm to animals and living human subjects. It also creates new challenges for honouring the donor’s legacy, respecting the rights of donor loved ones, resource allocation and public health. As this research model gains traction, new empirical ethics questions must be answered to preserve public trust in all forms of tissue donation and in the practice of medicine while respecting the legacy of the deceased and the rights of donor loved ones. This article suggests several topics for immediate investigation to understand the attitudes and experiences of researchers, clinical collaborators, donor loved ones and the public to ensure research involving the recently deceased advances ethically.

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