Human Exceptionalism

Humans as Natural Resources: More on Drive to Harvest the Living

I have an article in the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) newsletter about the continuing effort by many within the Medical Intelligentsia to redefine death toward the end of expanding the organ donor pool.  From my column:

For years, organ transplant ethicists and some in the bioethics community have agitated to change the definition of death from a purely biological determination, to one based in utilitarianism and desired sociological narratives. Why mess with death? Too few organs are donated for transplant, leading to long waiting lines and the deaths of some people who might be saved were organs more readily available.

But why redefine death? The point of this reckless advocacy — although they don’t put it this bluntly — is that there are thousands of perfectly good organs being used by people who really don’t need them anymore, by which they mean patients with profound cognitive impairments who will remain unconscious or minimally aware for the rest of their lives. Why not harvest such patients, this thinking goes, for the benefit of people who could return to normal lives?

I go over the recent editorial in Nature calling for a loosening of the definition of death and the similar article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, both of which I have discussed here.  I conclude:

It is important to stress that doctors are not currently harvesting the organs of people in PVS, and surely most would never do so. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen here. Richard John Neuhaus once wrote, “Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptionable.”

That process is steaming full speed ahead in the related fields of organ transplantation and biotechnology. The only way to stop this dehumanizing agenda is to take notice and push back before it is too late. Some things should ever and always be unthinkable.

This is an important drum, and I am going to continue to pound it.

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