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American Journal of Bioethics.

Ethical Issues in Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in Practice

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has demonstrated efficacy and is increasingly being used in the treatment of patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile infection. Despite a lack of high-quality trials to provide more information on the long-term effects of FMT, there has been great enthusiasm about the potential for expanding its applications. However, FMT presents many serious ethical and social challenges that must be addressed as part of a successful regulatory policy response. In this article, we draw on a sample of the scientific and bioethics literatures to examine clusters of ethical and social issues arising in five main areas: (1) informed consent and the vulnerability of patients; (2) determining what a “suitable healthy donor” is; (3) safety and risk; (4) commercialization and potential exploitation of vulnerable patients; and (5) public health implications. We find that these issues are complex and worthy of careful consideration by health care professionals. Desperation of a patient should not be the basis for selecting treatment with FMT, and the patient’s interests should always be of paramount concern. Authorities must prioritize development of appropriate and effective regulation of FMT to safeguard patients and donors, promote further research into safety and efficacy, and avoid abuse of the treatment.

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Volume 17, Issue 5
May 2017

Target Articles.

Ethical Issues in Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in Practice Yonghui Ma, Jiayu Liu, Catherine Rhodes, Yongzhan Nie & Faming Zhang


Genetic Fingerprints and National Security Beau P. Sperry, Megan Allyse & Richard R. Sharp