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Acquiring organs ethically: problems and prospects 

Acquiring organs ethically: problems and prospects
Acquiring organs ethically: problems and prospects

Jamie Lindemann Nelson

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date: 03 December 2020

The chief aim of this chapter is to survey and explore some of the prominent moral questions posed by human decisions and indecisions involving organ transplantation. What ought societies do to maximize the impact of organ transplantation? Which options are morally defencible, or preferable, or obligatory? What must not be done, even at the cost of lost organs and of shortened or lessened lives? Similar questions might, of course, be raised whenever one faces insufficient supplies of any valued item. Yet scarcity of organs is unlike scarcity of widgets or even scarcity of food: what organs are, and how we procure them, raise deep and possibly confounding problems. Thinking well about post-mortem organ procurement requires grappling with the nature of death, how we know whether it has occurred, and with our obligations to deter it. It confronts us with questions that were staples for ancient Greek philosophers about whether the dead can be harmed or wronged, as well as the rather less familiar question of whether people might have responsibilities from which death does not release them. It requires thinking about relationships between the dead and their families, their communities, and the needs of strangers.

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