Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory

Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory

Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory

Transplantation of vital organs began very experimentally in the 1950s and 1960s, but today it is well beyond the stage of medical experiment. Today transplantation of the kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, and intestine (along with some other organs) is routine.

Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory
Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory



From the start the procedures raised some ethical problems, some related to the fact that the demand for vital organs outpaces the supply. The majority of transplanted organs come from deceased donors. The problems are that only about 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation, and only 48 percent of adults in the U.S. are signed up to be donors. Thus many organs that could be used are either buried or burned (cremation) because the deceased wasn’t a donor or the family of the deceased refused donation. The result is that 22 people a day die waiting for a transplant, which is over 8,000 people a year.

Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory Organ Conscription

There are a number of proposals for solving this problem and creating a bigger supply of available organs, and therefore saving many lives. One of the more controversial is called organ conscription, which would require that every person who dies under the circumstances enabling organ transplantation would have their organs removed. That is, each person would become a “donor” whether or not while living they consented to be a donor, and whether or not their family consents. Like a military draft, this would be a draft of organs from deceased people. Hence the name: conscription.

If implemented this policy would immediately raise the number of available organs and save many lives (for the purposes of your paper, let’s assume that the number of people who die waiting for an organ will be cut from 8,000 a year to zero). And under conscription there would be no need for expensive ongoing public education programs, no need to train requesters, and no need to maintain donor registries. All of these facts mean that money and resources would be freed up for use in other areas of health care.

Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory

Some morally relevant factors to help get your thinking started:

Common sense morality and moral tradition in most cultures holds that the living not only have strong claims over their bodies while living, but also over what happens to their bodies after they die.
Supporters of conscription claim that the dead do not have interests, do not have rights, cannot be harmed, and therefore have no valid claims over their body after they die. They add that the policy is fair, since it would apply to all and everyone would be treated in the same way.

Instructions: write a paper of 900 to 1,300 words on the ethics of organ conscription that answers the following questions:

Explain your own stance regarding this policy. Do you support it and believe it is morally permissible, or are you opposed to it and believe it to be morally wrong? Briefly your reasons for your view.

Organ Conscription and Ethical Theory

Very briefly explain Kant’s moral theory. Then do the following three things:
Using the second formulation of the categorical imperative (and the idea of autonomy) construct the best Kantian argument in support of organ conscription
Using the second formulation of the categorical imperative (and the idea of autonomy) construct the best Kantian argument against organ conscription
Explain which of these positions is most true to Kantian moral theory and why

Very briefly explain utilitarianism. How does utilitarianism apply? What would it say about the morality of organ conscription? Since we’re talking about a policy issue, it will be easier to work with rule utilitarianism instead of using act utilitarianism.

Which theory best answers the question “Is a policy of organ conscription morally right to enact as law?” and why?
Note: here you’re essentially being asked to explain which theory answers the question in a way that agrees with your view. However, you might disagree with both theories. Perhaps you find that both theories answer the question in the same way and that answer differs from yours. If so, then explain how and why they have missed the mark.

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