Human Exceptionalism

The Call for “Organ Conscription” Begins

I have always said that if you want to see why things seem to be going so wrong in bioethics, just look at the professional literature at the most elite levels, in which a more candid view is presented than may appear in popular media. The bioethics blogs can also be illuminating.

Case in point, a blog out of Oxford called “Practical Ethics,” which is the name of a truly ghastly Peter Singer book, although there appears no connection to Singer, except on the idea level.

A recent entry discussed organ donation. First, look at what the author considered to be a “spurious” concern:

It is also easy for debate about organ donation to be side-tracked by spurious issues or concerns. So some people fear that they will not receive full treatment by doctors so that their organs can be used to save others.

Given the “quality of life” ethic that seem to be gaining momentum in bioethics and medicine, along with futile care theory and the drive for health care rationing, that hardly seems to be an irrelevant concern.

Then the author opines that we should permit killing for organs, perhaps even organ conscription:

There are two alternatives. If consent for organ donation is as important as it is made out to be, then debate about organ donation should be welcomed. There should be a detailed information available to the community about the circumstances in which their organs may be donated, and what that involves. The community should be reassured that decisions about the declaration of death and the withdrawal of life support are made independently of decisions about eligibility for organ donation. To both respect patient autonomy, and allay community concern, individuals could be given several options about organ donation, including alternatives not currently available such as donation of organs prior to death. This would allow them to have greater control over the process of their death and the use of their organs.

Alternatively, we may come to think that the benefit of organ donation is so great that we should reject the the current charade of informed consent for organ donation. After all, at present thousands of patients per year die for want of an available organ. Yet every day potentially life-saving organs are buried or burned because their owners did not make their wishes clear during life, because their families could not come to terms with the idea of donation, or because doctors failed to approach families to ask them for permission. Consent is relevant to what happens to us while we are alive. But once we are dead, our organs cannot benefit us, while they could save the lives of up to 6 others. Perhaps it is time to contemplate mandatory organ donation after death?

I believe and hope that this remains a minority view. But the fact that it is considered a matter of respectable discourse is cause for concern. If you want to destroy the people’s faith in the entire system, this is how to do it.