Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Death, Ethics, Morality, Immanuel Kant, Organs, Family, Kant, Enlightenment

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/24

The desperately ill patients of the present century have the chance to gain a second life through the process of organ transplantation. Thanks to the helpful innovations in the health care technology that made it possible. However, despite this significant improvement in the medical field, the sad news still circulates around almost every journal or the national newspapers. A recent data from the Washington post reveals that every day, 30 Americans who suffer from dysfunctional or diseased organs die. The culprit? The serious organ supply shortage in the United States. This tragic reality triggered the government to push for some aggressive measures that would increase organ donors.
Law makers have revised the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968 which “reaffirms that if a donor has a document of gift, there is no reason to seek consent from the donor's family as they have no right to give it legally.” (Verheijde, Rady and McGregor) On the other hand, the law will honor the person’s refusal to donate his organs after death, provided that he signs an explicit refusal. In the event that the deceased person did not sign either the document of gift or refusal to donate while alive, the Act presumes that the choice to donate is extended to his/her family. Family determination in donating the organs of their deceased members becomes a major ethical dilemma. Thus, the inevitable question arises- is it moral for families to donate the organs of their family members even without their consent? To answer this question, this paper will examine the morality of such action through the lens of the Kant and Rawls’ moral theories.
Emmanuel Kant’s moral philosophy is anchored on three tenets- moral worth, goodwill and duty. Since the issue deals with rational beings who are ought to make rational decisions in lieu of their deceased family members, it is of great importance to understand how Kant defines humanity and how they will fulfill their moral duty. According to Kant, the term “humanity” refers to persons with rational will or those who possessed rationality at one point. He illustrates that when a person dies, he does not automatically lose his humanity. Because humanity is innate in him, and not a physical attribute. This presumption ultimately describes the dead persons as having irrational nature, but still possess the humanity in them. To note, their irrational nature is not a disqualifying criteria to receive the respect and care of the rational beings. Kant argues that living persons must respect the rational nature that was once present in a deceased person. Kant suggests that it is irrational (therefore immoral) for people to treat dead persons as a matter in its decaying state and use them for any serviceable means. By analysing this perspective, it is quite clear that Kant views family determination of organ donation as an immoral act. His theory on the rationality of man compels every human to value the rational nature that was previously present in their dead relatives. As such, donating organs of a deceased relative, will only gain moral worth if the dead person have out rightly consented the act during their life while they are exercising their rational will.
Going back to Kant’s three tenets of morality, it is imperative to conclude that the Kantian theory holds that an action should be in strict and complete adherence to the said tenets. According to the German philosopher, the morality of one's action is not determined by his goal or reason. Furthermore, it is not defined by the means that he used in executing the action or the beneficial and desirable effects that are expected from doing the act. Kant firmly believes that the morality of an action depends solely on its nature. Translating this perspective to the issue of organ donation, it can be concluded that a father who donates the organ of his dead child is committing an immoral act. Obviously, donating the organ will save a life which is a desirable consequence. The father’s goal is also good because he aims to make use of his child’s organ in order to sustain someone else’s life. Despite the goodness of his intent and the desirability of the expected consequences, the Kantian theory declares that the action is immoral by nature. This is because by donating the organ of the dead, the father devalues the rational nature that was once present in his deceased child.
John Rawls agrees with some of Kant’s moral principles through his Contractualism theory. The main philosophy behind this theory states that every person has equal rights and equal basic liberties. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a person as a “human being.” This definition opens the concept that death does not transform a person into a “non-human” being. (Merriam-Webster) Therefore, Rawls’ theory implies that dead persons should be given equal rights as their living counterparts and one of this right is the freedom of choice regarding their bodies, thoughts or actions. It is safe to assume that since the dead people did not sign a document of gift, they have not made the choice to donate any of their organs after death. This means that no one has the right to donate his organs because such action will equate to invasion of his right and denial of his liberty.
Kant’s deontological theory states that the goodness or immorality of one’s action is determined by his negligence or fulfillment of his duty. This duty is to act based on his rational will at all times, irregardless of his purpose, personal reasons, prospective outcomes and the surrounding circumstances. Rawls supports the immorality of donating an organ of a deceased relative by emphasizing that every social value which include liberty, opportunity, and respect must be equally distributed. Even dead persons has the right to be respected and left with the liberty to preserve their organs in case of death.
Behind the endless controversies and rising ethical concerns that surround organ donation after death, there is one reality that seems too difficult to answer. The organ supply is very little compared to the number of Americans who urgently need it. Different theories on morality have not solved the shortage of organ supply and even made the issue more complicated. But what can the United States do in order to increase the supply without hurting morality perspectives? Perhaps, a few recommendations would offer an insight, if not an answer to this question.
First, a collaborative effort between the government and health care institutions should be established. Health care professionals must make sure that the patient is aware of his choices of donating or preserving his organs after death. This measure will raise awareness among patients and would encourage them to make an early decision so that their families will not face the dilemma of whether to donate their organs to save lives or preserve them to respect his humanity. Because the reality of the randomness of life exists and unexpected death is inevitable, the government must not only focus on patients. They should educate the American public about the shortage of organ supply and tell them about what they can do. The state must inform them that they can choose to play a big part in saving the lives of thousands of people who are in dire need of an organ transplant. An nationwide opt-in system would be effective where people can express their noble intent to donate their organs in case of their death. Making them aware of the problem and highlighting their capability to provide a solution is undoubtedly a great way to increase the number of organ donors. This is a fair system that does not defy the natural law of valuing and respecting another person’s right of choice.
Another possible (but a little ambitious) response to organ shortage is a more in depth studies to discover alternative therapies for mild organ failures that would definitely lessen the numbers of patients who need organ transplants. While researches on therapeutic alternatives are still on a speculative stage, they offer a hopeful future remedy for people who suffer from minor failures. The success of these experiments will somehow minimize the imbalance between the supply and demand of organs. It would not hurt to hope that science and technology will find an answer to the nation’s problem on organ shortage in the future. But at present, the opt-in policy would work and would guarantee that doctors will save life without violating moral principles and hurting spiritual beliefs on the sanctity of human body.

Works Cited

Cahn, Steven and Peter Markie, eds. Ethics, History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, 5th ed. New York: OUP, 2012. Print.
Thomas, Chris. The Ethics Around Organ Donation, Web. 19 Mar. 2015
<https://www.chf.org.au/hvo-2008-1-ethics-organ-donation.chf>
Verheijde, Joseph, Rady, Mohamed and Joan McGregor. “The United States Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (2006): New challenges to balancing patient rights and physician responsibilities.” 12 Sept. 2007. Web. 19 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2001294/>

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WePapers. (2020, December, 24) Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories. Retrieved October 04, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-on-the-ethics-of-family-determination-in-organ-donation-through-the-lens-of-immanuel-kant-and-john-rawls-moral-theories/
"Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories." WePapers, 24 Dec. 2020, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-on-the-ethics-of-family-determination-in-organ-donation-through-the-lens-of-immanuel-kant-and-john-rawls-moral-theories/. Accessed 04 October 2022.
WePapers. 2020. Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories., viewed October 04 2022, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-on-the-ethics-of-family-determination-in-organ-donation-through-the-lens-of-immanuel-kant-and-john-rawls-moral-theories/>
WePapers. Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed October 04, 2022]. Available from: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-on-the-ethics-of-family-determination-in-organ-donation-through-the-lens-of-immanuel-kant-and-john-rawls-moral-theories/
"Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories." WePapers, Dec 24, 2020. Accessed October 04, 2022. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-on-the-ethics-of-family-determination-in-organ-donation-through-the-lens-of-immanuel-kant-and-john-rawls-moral-theories/
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Free Essay On The Ethics Of Family Determination In Organ Donation Through The Lens Of Immanuel Kant And John Rawls’ Moral Theories. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-on-the-ethics-of-family-determination-in-organ-donation-through-the-lens-of-immanuel-kant-and-john-rawls-moral-theories/. Published Dec 24, 2020. Accessed October 04, 2022.
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