PHIL103 Assignment 3.3 (Human Organs as Commodities) says: “List the ethical dilemmas which arise surrounding the donation and scarcity of kidneys. Write a one paragraph position paper about one of those issues, arguing for your position with concrete arguments.” It does not require that the paper be posted here, but it made sense to me to post it anyway.
With the great need and relative shortage of organs available for transplantation, many ways to bridge the gap are being considered today. One policy to that end is presumed consent. In this practice, when a person dies, their organs are taken for transplantation unless they (while living) have requested otherwise. Ethically, this practice seems sound. While philosophies differ on what happens after a person dies, most would agree that the person’s body will no longer be used by that person; arguably, the person’s body is no longer in their possession. The opt-out would be used in the case of those religious or philosophical views which do require that the body remain intact after death. A possible concern with this approach is sufficiently educating and informing the public about organ donation. While this is an important consideration, it is not insurmountable; the public perception of smoking, for example, has been drastically changed within the last two or three generations, so educating the public on medical and health issues certainly can be accomplished. Another possible issue with presumed consent is the argument that the opt-out requires action and may unfairly burden some people. This point is valid, but can also be accounted for by making the opt-out process as simple and accessible as possible. In the U.S., which does not currently practice presumed consent, methods already exist to track organ donors, so it should not be difficult to similarly track those who wish to opt out in a presumed consent approach. In summary, presumed consent is a significant ethical possibility in meeting the need for organ transplants.