The policy of organ conscription, which involves removing organs from the recently deceased without obtaining consent from the donor or their family, poses a complex ethical dilemma in the field of healthcare. This assessment aims to critically evaluate the moral soundness of this policy by using cogent moral reasoning and relevant ethical theories or moral principles.
One ethical theory that can be applied to this issue is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism posits that the morally right action is the one that maximizes overall happiness or well-being for the greatest number of people. Supporters of organ conscription argue that this policy would vastly increase the number of available organs and, therefore, save many lives. From a utilitarian perspective, if the benefits of organ conscription outweigh the potential harms, then this policy can be deemed morally sound.
According to Munson (2014), approximately 10,000 patients in the United States die each year due to the unavailability of organ donors, which is three times the number of people killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. If the implementation of organ conscription could significantly reduce this number and save lives, then it aligns with the utilitarian principle of maximizing overall well-being. This argument gains further support when considering the principle of distributive justice, which emphasizes fair distribution of resources. With organ conscription, the burden of providing organs after death would be shared among individuals, and all people would stand to benefit in case they require an organ transplant in the future.
However, opponents of organ conscription raise several moral objections. One prominent objection is the violation of autonomy and individual rights. Removing organs from a deceased individual without their prior consent or the consent of their family disregards the principle of respect for autonomy, a fundamental ethical principle in healthcare. Autonomy refers to an individual’s ability to make decisions about their own body and healthcare. By not obtaining consent, organ conscription infringes upon an individual’s autonomy and right to control what happens to their body after death.
Furthermore, the policy of organ conscription raises concerns about potential abuse and exploitation. Allowing for the removal of organs without consent could potentially lead to the commodification of organs, with a market emerging for illegally obtained organs. This raises questions about the ethics of allowing individuals to sell their organs, which is another controversial topic in the field of healthcare. Selling organs raises concerns about exploitation of vulnerable individuals and the potential for coercion or financial pressure to influence decisions regarding organ donation.
The principle of beneficence, which emphasizes the obligation to do good and promote the well-being of others, also comes into play when considering the policy of organ conscription. While it is undeniable that organ conscription could potentially save lives, it is important to consider the potential psychological and emotional harm that may result from disregarding the wishes of the deceased or their family. The grieving process and the ability to honor the autonomy and wishes of the deceased play significant roles in the ethical provision of healthcare. Organ conscription may undermine these important factors and cause unnecessary distress and harm to individuals involved.
In conclusion, the policy of organ conscription presents a complex ethical dilemma in healthcare. While utilitarianism supports the potential benefits of increasing the number of available organs and saving lives, opposition arises from concerns about individual autonomy, the potential for exploitation, and the overriding principle of beneficence. Ultimately, the moral soundness of organ conscription depends on the balance between these ethical considerations and the overall impact on the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. Further exploration and ethical analysis are required to address these concerns and arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the issue.