Kantian condemnation of commerce in organs
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Kantian Condemnation of Commerce in Organs. Samuel Kerstein Associate Professor of Philosophy University of Maryland [email protected] Kantian Moral Principle. Act always in a way that expresses respect for the value of humanity. The Value of humanity: its dignity. Unconditional worth

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Kantian Condemnation of Commerce in Organs

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Kantian condemnation of commerce in organs

Kantian Condemnation of Commerce in Organs

Samuel Kerstein

Associate Professor of Philosophy

University of Maryland

[email protected]


Kantian moral principle

Kantian Moral Principle

Act always in a way that expresses respect for the value of humanity.


The value of humanity its dignity

The Value of humanity: its dignity

  • Unconditional worth

  • Incomparable worth: “What has price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; what . . . is raised above all price and therefore admits of no equivalent has a dignity.” (Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals)


Kant on organ sales

Kant on Organ Sales

It is always morally wrong to “deprive oneself of an integral part or organ (to maim oneself) –for example, to . . . sell a tooth to be transplanted into another’s mouth . . .”(Metaphysics of Morals)


Thomas rowlandson the transplanting of teeth 1787

Thomas Rowlandson, The Transplanting of Teeth (1787)


Claim a poor person s selling his tooth to increase his comfort is wrong

Claim: A poor person’s selling his tooth to increase his comfort is wrong.

Possible argument for claim: Since such an action endangers the seller’s life, it always expresses disrespect for the value of humanity.

But: Tooth extraction isn’t always that risky.

Possible argument for claim: Since the “meaning” of such an action is that the seller himself has the value of a mere tool, available for the right price for others to use as they will, the action always expresses disrespect for the value of humanity.

But: A tooth is not a person.


Claim a poor person s selling his tooth to increase his comfort is wrong1

Claim: A poor person’s selling his tooth to increase his comfort is wrong.

In Kant’s cultural context, actions of this type tend to promote the notion that poor people have merely the value of tools available for the right price for others to use as they will: a notionthat clasheswith the idea that humanity has dignity.

But if an action is of a type that tends to promote a notion that clashes with the idea that humanity has dignity, then the action fails to express respect for humanity’s dignity.

Therefore, in Kant’s cultural context, actions of the type in question fail to express respect for humanity’s dignity and so are wrong.


Application to case of organ selling

Regulated Market: A 25-year old, married man in a developing country has struggled as a laborer to make ends meet. Expenses for food, housing, and, especially, medical care for his wife have landed him in debt. His creditors are harassing him to pay up. His government has established a regulated market in organs. A government employee thoroughly describes to the laborer the health risks posed by kidney extraction as well as the benefits he will receive if he agrees to it, including $2,500 and health insurance for life. The man sells his organ and receives the money and insurance coverage.

Application to Case of Organ Selling


Does the seller act wrongly in regulated market

Does the seller act wrongly in Regulated Market?

Let’s assume he performs an action of the type: “poor person sells kidney to government in order to get out of debt.”

Does this type of action tend to promote the notion that some persons have merely the value of tools to be used by others at will?


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • According to the Kantian argument at hand, whether selling organs is morally wrong depends in part on the cultural/historical context in which it occurs. Moral impermissibility is not an intrinsic feature of the action of selling an organ.

  • But the argument suggests that, in the real-world contexts in which it typically does and is likely to occur, selling organs is wrong.


Conclusion1

Conclusion

  • Kantian ethics does not condemn all measures that would likely lessen or eliminate the shortage in organs for transplant. Morally permissible alternatives to buying/selling organs might be:

    • Opt out programs for deceased-donor organ donation.

    • An organ draft.


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