The ethics of organ transplantation reconsidered

February 1999
Kidney International;Feb1999, Vol. 55 Issue 2, p724
Academic Journal
The ethics of organ transplantation reconsidered: Paid organ donation and the use of executed prisoners as donors. We examine the arguments for and against the practice of paid organ donation and the use of judicially executed prisoners as seen in a world context. Although Western opinion is almost universally against both practices, we seek to establish that this has arisen largely from justification of an initial revulsion against both and not from reasoned ethical debate. In examining the most commonly cited arguments against these practices, we demonstrate that this revulsion arises mainly from the abuses to which both processes have been subjected, rather than the acts themselves, together with opposition to a death penalty. At the moment and for some future time, in the absence or shortage of dialysis in large parts of the developing world, transplanted organs represent the only means of treating end-stage renal failure. Thus, a clear ethical conflict arises as to whether greater harm or good is done by allowing individuals to die or adopting strategies for obtaining organs that raise ethical problems. We call for continued reasoned ethical debate on both issues, rather than accepting that the argument is already over.


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