Ethical issues associated with solid organ transplantation and substance use: a scoping review

Lauren Notini, Denitsa Vasileva, Ani Orchanian-Cheff, Daniel Z. Buchman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


While solid organ transplantation for patients with substance use issues has attracted ethical discussion, a typology of the ethics themes has not been articulated in the literature. We conducted a scoping review of peer-reviewed literature on solid organ transplantation and substance use published between January 1997 and April 2016. We aimed to identify and develop a typology of the main ethical themes discussed in this literature and to identify gaps worthy of future research. Seventy articles met inclusion criteria and underwent inductive content analysis. Four main ethical themes were identified: (1) personal responsibility; (2) utility; (3) moral character; and (4) fairness. Each theme had multiple sub-themes and there was substantial overlap between themes. This scoping review identified a disproportionate emphasis in the literature regarding personal responsibility, which was referenced by each of the other themes, and a narrow focus on alcohol and liver. We recommend future research further investigate these connections between ethical themes and focus on ethical issues associated with transplants from organ groups other than liver for patients who use substances other than alcohol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-135
Number of pages25
JournalMonash Bioethics Review
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioethics
  • Organ transplantation
  • Personal responsibility
  • Scoping review
  • Substance use

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