This House would allow donations of vital organs even at the expense of the donor's life

Organ donations are one of the most vital steps of progress made in the field of medicine. Where the failure of a vital organ previously would lead to a person’s imminent death, there is a chance today of saving lives by transplanting hearts, kidneys, livers etc. However, in the case of organs such as hearts and livers, transplantation can only take place if a patient’s need coincides with the death of a donor. In the status quo, many people die as there is not a sufficient amount of organs that match the blood type and antibodies of the recipients.[1] If these are not matched then there is a chance of rejection of the organ. Live donations are growing becoming more common and often increase survival rates but this is only for cases where an organ can be donated with little risk of life such as with a kidney.[2] This proposal is much more extreme as it would allow parents instead of standing by watching their children die, unable to do anything to save them to take action. The proposed motion would allow the relatives whose organs would save their loved one to donate their organ at the expense of their own life. While this is an attractive idea to some, for others it violates the fundamental principles of how we are to relate to life. It also touches upon the question of whether one can qualify and quantify human life. Regardless of which side might be found to be right, it is a motion that affects families at a pivotal point of their lives, but also health care professionals, religions, politicians and society as a whole[3].

[1] Monforte-Royo, C. and M.V. Roqué. “The organ donation process: A humanist perspective based on the experience of nursing care.” Nursing Philosophy 13.4 (2012): 295-301.

[2] NHS Choices, “Organ donation – Living donation”, 19 October 2012, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Organ-donation/Pages/Recommendations.aspx

[3] Chkhotua, A. “Incentives for organ donation: pros and cons.” Transplantation proceedings [Transplant Proc] 44 (2012): 1793-4. http://211.144.68.84:9998/91keshi/Public/File/29/44-6/pdf/1-s2.0-S0041134512005039-main.pdf

 

Title 
It is a natural thing to do
Point 

We are biologically programmed to want to preserve our species. As such, our offspring will often be more important to ourselves than our own persons. Many doctors hear parents tell them how they wish that they could “take over” their child’s terminal illness rather than have the child suffer.[1] It is therefore natural and right for the older generation to sacrifice itself where possible to save the younger generation. As crass as this might seem, they are statistically more likely to die earlier than their offspring in any event and stand to lose less.  They have had the chance to experience more of a life than their child. They are furthermore the cause of the child’s existence, and owe it to the child to protect it at any cost.

[1] Monforte-Royo, C. and M.V. Roqué. “The organ donation process: A humanist perspective based on the experience of nursing care.” Nursing Philosophy 13.4 (2012): 295-301. 

Counterpoint 

Biology is a bad way of deciding moral behaviour. If we were to do what biology tells us to do, we would be no more than animals. Every person has a right to live their life and they do not lose it simply because they have family. In modern society we do not cease to live meaningful lives at the point when we have children, as Darwinians might have us believe, but many people have more than half of their valuable lives ahead of them at the point when their children are emancipated.

Title 
The guilt may be too heavy a burden for the relative who could have saved a life
Point 

It is not fair to ask of a parent to live with the guilt of having been able to save their child and not doing so. Believing that they are guilty of their child’s death can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which in turn is a major cause of suicides.[1]

[1] Monforte-Royo, C., et al. “The wish to hasten death: a review of clinical studies.” Psycho-Oncology 20.8 (2011): 795-804. 

Counterpoint 

Providing the choice to donate at expense of one’s life will simply increase the pressure on those who do not wish to donate as they now are presented with a much bigger burden when their loved one dies as they could lawfully have prevented it. Moreover the person who is receiving the donation would also have that sense of guilt of living with the knowledge that someone actively chose to sacrifice their life for them. This guilt may well be larger than having the possibility of saving someone but not acting.[1]

[1] Monforte-Royo, C., et al. “The wish to hasten death: a review of clinical studies.” Psycho-Oncology 20.8 (2011): 795-804.

Title 
The right to individual self determination is a fundamental human right, equal to that of life itself
Point 

It is a fundamental principle of the human being is that every human is born autonomous. Therefore, we believe that every person has a right to his or her own body and is thus competent to make decisions about it. This is because we recognise that whatever decisions we might make about our bodies, stem from the knowledge that we have about our own preferences. Nobody can tell us how to value different goods and therefore what matters to one person might matter less to another. If we were to undermine this right, nobody would be able to live their life to its fullest as they would be living their life to someone else’s fullest. The extension of this right is that if someone values another person’s life over their own it is their informed decision to sacrifice themselves for that person. It is not for others to decide, and in particular not for the State.

Counterpoint 

Man is also a social being. While we have a right to our own body, we also have duties to those around us. If we choose to terminate our lives, we must consider the consequences for those who depend on us, physically or emotionally. Can we really judge whether our own life is less worth than that of the recipient? Human beings also often make decisions without all the relevant information. The choices we make may very well be ill-informed even if we believe otherwise. Part of the problem here is that all the consequences of our decisions can never be fully understood or anticipated. 

Title 
We should preserve the person with greater quality of life
Point 

We have to be able to measure quality of life relatively. There might be many cases where a relative is terminally ill, yet not dead yet. This person, with a survival prospect of maybe half a year of suffering and medication, might have a perfectly functional organ.[1] It is very rational, both for this person and for society as a whole to allow him or her to undergo euthanasia at an early stage to save the other person.[2]

Furthermore, a person might sacrifice his or her life to provide an organ for a specific individual, yet their other organs can still be used to save others, of whom the donor might not have been aware. It is sad that a person has to die, but as this is the only option[3], it is a good thing that several people might live when one sacrifices their life.

[1] Monforte-Royo, C. and M.V. Roqué. “The organ donation process: A humanist perspective based on the experience of nursing care.” Nursing Philosophy 13.4 (2012): 295-301.

[2] Wilkinson, Dominc and Julian Savalescu. “SHOULD WE ALLOW ORGAN DONATION EUTHANASIA? ALTERNATIVES FOR MAXIMIZING THE NUMBER AND QUALITY OF ORGANS FOR TRANSPLANTATION.” Bioethics 26.1 (2012): 32-48.

[3] ibid 

Counterpoint 

This will only lead to family members pressuring terminally ill people to commit suicide prematurely. Even those who are terminally ill, value life, possible even more than others. These people are vulnerable and bereft of hope they are prone to be pressured into such action (Tremblay).[1] However, it is impossible to say whether six months of life for one person is more or less worth than six years for another. Furthermore, this assumes that we know that the recipient will indeed live that long, which we never can know about mortal beings.

As to the second part of the point, it is impossible to quantify human life. If the value of human life is indeed infinite, it is not as simple as to say that two lives are better than one. As long as we cannot say for sure, this is a slippery slope of quantifying human lives that we want to avoid at all costs.

[1] Tremblay, Joe. “Organ Donation Euthanasia: A Growing Epidemic.” Catholic News Agency, (2013). http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2480

Title 
Greater awareness will increase donations
Point 

There is a clear need around the world for more donors of organs. In the UK there are about 4000 transplants a year but there are always more waiting, in November 2012 there were 7593 people waiting so on average each will be waiting for almost two years.[1] In Germany there are over 12,000 waiting but only 2777 donations in 2012.[2] The sacrifice of individual relatives who willingly choose death to save their loved ones therefore brings the need for donations into focus. The media are likely to present heart-breaking stories about loving people who made the ultimate sacrifice. As a consequence, more people will be aware of the issue and wish to fill in donor cards so that they might be able to minimise the number of voluntary donations in the event of their death.  Thus there will be more naturally donated organs available and more lives will be saved.

[1] NHS Choices, “Introduction”, 19 October 2012, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Organ-donation/Pages/Introduction.aspx

[2] Lütticke, Marcus, “Germany lags behind in organ donations”, Deutsche Welle, 4 January 2013, http://dw.de/p/17Dth

Counterpoint 

It is cynical to encourage people commit suicide to bring the media’s attention to an issue. If there is too little attention, the problem lies with the media and needs to be solved by changing the media. It is not the responsibility of vulnerable relatives to sacrifice their lives to redress that issue.

Moreover, if the proposal were to be put into practise, the government would be communicating that organ donations primarily is an issue for the family of the sick person.  Thus, people will be less keen to donate their organs to someone that they do not know, as they believe that there will be a family member who will sort it for them.  Sacrificial donations are always inferior and the motion would make them the norm rather than what is the case in the status quo.

Title 
Self-preservation is our primary moral duty
Point 

Many people, especially those who belong to religious groups believe that we have a duty to preserve our own lives. They would argue that suicide is never justified, even if the reasons might appear to be good. It is impossible to sacrifice your life for others, because you cannot know how important your life is to others in relation to how important other people’s lives are. Either life is invaluable and it is thus impossible to value one life higher than others, or it can be valued, but it is impossible for us to assess our life’s value in relation to others. Therefore, while we accept that some might die, it is not for the individual to take matters into his or her own hands and accelerate the process, as this decision might be made on the wrong grounds, but cannot be reversed.

Counterpoint 

This argument is selfish and ignores how love might push a person to make great sacrifices. We might have imperfect information about our importance, but whatever information we have, gives us an idea of how to assess complicated situations. If we were to follow this logic, self-determination would be impossible

Title 
The recipient is forced to receive the sacrifice of another
Point 

In many cases, the recipient is not in position to consent to the donation. Thus, even if it saves his or her life, it is comes with an intrusion on his or her moral integrity that he or she might value higher than survival. If we are to receive such a drastic sacrifice from someone that we love – surely we must have a right to veto it?[1] This means that to enable the choice of the donor the choice of the receiver has been ignored, there seems to be little reason to simply switch those two positions around as is proposed.

[1] Monforte-Royo, C., et al. “The wish to hasten death: a review of clinical studies.” Psycho-Oncology 20.8 (2011): 795-804.

Counterpoint 

Firstly, this case is about emergencies. Consent is important, but it cannot be compared to the importance of saving a life. Secondly, the person whose consent matters is the donor who is making the sacrifice. The recipient can be expected to want to live, even if he or she cannot communicate this.[1]

[1] Monforte-Royo, C., et al. “The wish to hasten death: a review of clinical studies.” Psycho-Oncology 20.8 (2011): 795-804.

Title 
This would encourage coercion for some to die to save others
Point 

By allowing sacrificial donations society becomes vulnerable to abuse of this system. It is possible that people are scared or coerced into sacrificing their lives for others. While society does all it can for those who are ill, it cannot start moving the boundaries for when it actively takes the lives of its citizens.

Even when there is no coercion, we cannot even know when a person is beyond all hope. Even in the direst situations, there are exceptional cases when people recover. However, if we take a person’s vital organs, the process is irreversible. Therefore, it is always wrong to prematurely kill another person, while the recipient is still alive and within the realm of luck and miracles. In the status quo the donor is already dead and the trade-off is not a problem, but this cannot be extended to the living

Counterpoint 

The risk of coercion might be true about voluntary donations of organs and blood where the donor survives. A donation is always a large decision and the authorities must take measures to ensure that the donor is acting freely. However, the harm of a person potentially being vulnerable is significantly lesser than that of a person dying because everyone who wanted to help this person had their hands tied.

Modern medicine has very powerful tools at their disposal to be able to know for a fact that a person is beyond saving if not given an organ.[1]

[1] Chkhotua, A. “Incentives for organ donation: pros and cons.” Transplantation proceedings [Transplant Proc] 44 (2012): 1793-4. http://211.144.68.84:9998/91keshi/Public/File/29/44-6/pdf/1-s2.0-S0041134512005039-main.pdf

Title 
The role of society is to save lives not to assist in suicide
Point 

The purpose of society, the health sector and more specifically the doctors is to preserve health, not to be damaging health or even assisting in the ending of a life even if voluntarily. As part of this, death is sometimes something that must be affected. However, it is not in line with the purpose of medical professionals to kill a healthy person. The solution is to focus every possible effort on curing the sick person, but society cannot be complicit in killing a healthy person[1].

[1] Tremblay, Joe. “Organ Donation Euthanasia: A Growing Epidemic.” Catholic News Agency, (2013). http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2480

Counterpoint 

If the purpose of society and the health sector is indeed to promote life and preserve health, surely it must be in that interest to find ways of saving people’s lives when possible. Whoever dies and leaves an organ behind saves a life, and often more than one life as shown by the UK having carried out 3960 transplants with 2143 donors in 2011-12,[1] and there is thus no loss of life. A person only gives up their own life if they have a good reason to do so. Thus, it is likely that this model will promote the preservation of younger and healthier lives over those who have less to lose by sacrificing theirs.

[1] NHS Choices, “Introduction”, 19 October 2012, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Organ-donation/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Title 
Doctors should not be asked to take the moral burden of people who want to commit suicide
Point 

It is not fair to ask doctors who have committed their lives to preserving health to act as an instrument of killing a person. The doctor will then have to live with the doubt as to whether the act of assisting in the donation was just or not. In other words, if the person who wanted to die for another did not do so voluntarily, the act of killing him or her is morally wrong and the doctor becomes complicit. In order to carry out this scheme, the individual moral autonomy of doctors will be violated.[1]

[1] Tremblay, Joe. “Organ Donation Euthanasia: A Growing Epidemic.” Catholic News Agency, (2013). http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2480

Counterpoint 

This is easily solved. Similarly to doctors who assist in cases of abortion or even executions doctors must have the option of opting out. However, once it is proven that this model is ethically good, it is likely that there are doctors who will realise the potential of this method and who will want to participate. After all, this is a motion that relates to the exceptional cases, so even if most doctors opt out there will still be doctors who will be willing to operate under this scheme.

Bibliography 

Chkhotua, A. “Incentives for organ donation: pros and cons.” Transplantation proceedings [Transplant Proc] 44 (2012): 1793-4. http://211.144.68.84:9998/91keshi/Public/File/29/44-6/pdf/1-s2.0-S0041134512005039-main.pdf

Lütticke, Marcus, “Germany lags behind in organ donations”, Deutsche Welle, 4 January 2013, http://dw.de/p/17Dth

Monforte-Royo, C., et al. “The wish to hasten death: a review of clinical studies.” Psycho-Oncology 20.8 (2011): 795-804.

Monforte-Royo, C. and M.V. Roqué. “The organ donation process: A humanist perspective based on the experience of nursing care.” Nursing Philosophy 13.4 (2012): 295-301.

NHS Choices, “Introduction”, 19 October 2012, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Organ-donation/Pages/Introduction.aspx

NHS Choices, “Organ donation – Living donation”, 19 October 2012, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Organ-donation/Pages/Recommendations.aspx

Tremblay, Joe. “Organ Donation Euthanasia: A Growing Epidemic.” Catholic News Agency, (2013). http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2480

Wilkinson, Dominc and Julian Savalescu. “SHOULD WE ALLOW ORGAN DONATION EUTHANASIA? ALTERNATIVES FOR MAXIMIZING THE NUMBER AND QUALITY OF ORGANS FOR TRANSPLANTATION.” Bioethics 26.1 (2012): 32-48.

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