Human Exceptionalism

Prisoners Are Not Crops Ripe for the Harvest

Yes, we have a shortage of transplantable organs. But that does not in the least excuse <a href="http://www.comcast.net/news/national/index.jsp?cat=DOMESTIC&fn=/2007/03/08/605624.html&cvqh=itn_organdonors

“>this legislation in South Carolina to give reduced sentences to prisoners in return for agreeing to be an organ or bone marrow donor. No, I am not joking.

There is a terrible history in this country of using prisoners in unethical human medical experimentation. This proposal is right out of that playbook. I don’t care if they are murderers, rapists, or former executives of Enron, prisoners have intrinsic value as human beings–which if that concept is to mean anything, has to prevent them from being reduced to the moral equivalent of a string bean crop. And don’t talk to me about “choice.” The potential for coercion in prison self evident. (The story is unclear whether the organ donations could be live or would be restricted to cadavers. If “live,” it is an absolute outrage.)

China may treat prisoners as sources of organs. We should never get into that gutter. This is not to say that a prisoner should never be able to be an organ donor, but the donation would have to be freely given and without a hint of coercion or “time off for good donations.”

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