Organ harvesting saves lives

by John Snow on February 16, 2015 - 2:31pm

In a world where medical advancements enable us to save more and more lives, a lot of people are still reluctant to offer their organs after their death to people who really need them to live. Applying a signature to the back of a health insurance card signifies that you allow doctors to harvest organs from your body in order to give them to a person in need, and I think it would be unethical to do otherwise. When using the principle of Utilitarianism while analysing this situation, we can conclude that if one has the possibility to literally prolong the life of another person without harming him or anyone else, the person should do so. The fact that the donor is dead, and therefore cannot feel anything obviously confirms that no one is harmed during the process, and since organs are no longer useful to the deceased, it would be unethical not to share them. I therefore think that everyone should acknowledge that his or her organs could be used to benefit other people in need.


The sad thing is that the number of available human organs decreases each year, and the waiting lists grow longer and longer. This problem is discussed in this academic journal article: Tabarrok, Alexander. "Life-Saving Incentives: Consequences, Costs and Solutions to the Organ Shortage." Library Economics Liberty 3 Aug. 2009. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <>. The author gives clear solutions to the issue while mentioning that a simple increase in deceased donors could contribute a lot to the organ shortage. ‘’The shortage of organs could be greatly alleviated, and eliminated entirely for at least some organs, if more people were to sign their organ donor cards and if more families agreed to donate after the death of a loved one.’’ In China, and also among other places around the world, the organ donations as now become an important problem. As featured in this CNN article: there is a low donation rate and a lot of people who could have survived are left to die because there are no organs available for them, but this situation is mainly due to different beliefs who restrain people from sharing their organs.


It is however important to acknowledge the beliefs of people who refuse to donate because it is engraved in their culture or their religion. In China, for instance, people may refuse to donate as a matter of respect for their parents who gave them healthy bodies to live with for their whole life. Also, certain religions consider the body as sacred, and think that it should stay untouched even after death. Both of these beliefs make total sense in a spiritual way, but one thing remains in pretty much every culture and religion: helping others is mandatory when you have the resources to do it. Therefore, with a Utilitarian perspective, I think the possibility to prolong another life when yours has come to an end overcomes any other way of seeing the issue, and that should agree to share your organs to people in need after your death.


I would like to begin by saying that you have chosen a very interesting topic and that I was completely unaware of the decrease in organ donations before reading your post. I believe this is a very important ethical issue because I too had to witness two of my family members suffer on a never-ending transplant waiting list.

From your post, I noticed that you have chosen to adopt a utilitarian point of view where the morality of an action is determined by its end result. In this case, the desired end goal or “summum bonum” is to prolong the lives of individuals in need of organ transplants. I am in total agreement with this perspective because as you clearly pointed out, organ harvesting opens up the possibility of allowing individuals to prolong the lives of others without harming anyone. Ultimately, I support your opinion because you have done an excellent job arguing that even from a cultural point of view, a utilitarian perspective respects “one thing in pretty much every culture and religion: helping others is mandatory when you have the resources to do it” (Snow).

Therefore, I too will conclude that from a utilitarian point of view, organ harvesting is ethical because it opens up the possibility of prolonging another individual’s life without harming anyone or disrespecting cultural beliefs.

I totally agree with your point of view. I also think people should sign the back of their health insurance card in order to give their consent to let doctors harvest their organs after their death. This simple signature or verbal consent from family members brings the greater good to the greatest number. Indeed, “one organ donor can save up to eight lives” (“All About Donation”). A person’s death can therefore become useful in the way that it can help save and prolonged other lives. From a utilitarian perspective, the harvesting of organs is completely ethical and should be universal. However, as you rightly mentioned, it is against some people’s beliefs to donate their organs either because of their religion or their culture. Forcing them to donate would be unethical because it would go against their rights of choosing to keep their organs. But, when considering the number of lives that could be saved, I agree that donating should be mandatory as “major religions agree that donation, when carried out in a respectful and ethically correct manner is an act of love and generosity” (“Religious Leaders & Clergy”). I think that more good than bad comes out from donating organs.

Works cited
"All About Donation: Organ Donation Facts." Donate Live NY. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2015. < >
"Religious Leaders & Clergy: Just For You." Donate Live NY. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2015. < >

I found your topic very interesting as I myself a few years back have noticed the ability to sign behind my medicare card to give consent for my organs to be eligible for donation. You have clearly explained one side of the issue. This is an extremely complicated dilemma as, you have mentioned, through a utilitarian point of view, this problem seems like a no brainer: you are no longer in need of your organs, why DON'T you do the selfless act and give them to someone who is in desperate need of one to continue living?

However, there is something you haven't thought about more profoundly. There is the other side of the coin: one's right to their own organs. Not only is there a religious factor involved in the matter, there is also the dilemma one goes through in giving up a piece of themselves, a piece so pure of who they are, and not knowing who is going to use them, how will they use them, if they will treat it properly, etc. I have read the CNN article you have provided and it would seem as though the black market is another worry on people's minds. Once you are deceased, you have no control or say on what happens to your body: you become powerless. Therefore, allowing someone to cut you open, retract a vital part of who you are, and doing whatever pleases them is extremely worrying to people. It can almost be compared to the donation of money to charities, to those in need, or those who ask monetary favours. The idea is compelling and so righteous, it would seem like a no brainer.
If my opinion does not convince you enough to see the reason as to why there is a moral dilemma with organ donors, let me demonstrate this with an ethical framework: the ethical relativism. This framework explains how depending on your culture, not all moral principles are valid.

Therefore, your thesis is strictly your opinion but you must bear in mind that one’s moral beliefs can not overcome those of others.

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