Ethical Issues in Organ Donation by the Weak Population: A Case Analysis
Keywords:弱勢群體, 器官捐獻, 德性分析, 責任倫理學, 個體倫理學
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract also in English.
From an ethical view, the weak population is a group of people that need protection and assistance by society. Generally, their capacity for survival and supporting society is weaker than the others. It may cause an ethical dilemma when they want to succor the others. For one thing, their moral motive for the succor can be suspicious.
Modern Business, a local newspaper in Changsha, reported such a case in the early 2002. A divorcer, without a formal job but with a seriously disabled daughter, would desire to donate his kidney to a woman contracting uremia. He stated that he wanted to help others since he had been receiving assistance from society. He even signed a notarization with the woman for the donation.
Some people raised four questions regarding the donating arrangement: (1) Did they sign an alternative and secret contract involving economic benefits for the donation? (2) Did they desire to have the aid of the media for extra benefits? (3) Can rewarding society, as the donator declared, be an adequate account of the donating? (4) Did the donator lose his courage to survive and want to get rid of the pressure on his life by the donating, i.e. wishing to die in the operation?
I think these questions are all misleading. They are also discriminative, because they are ethically against the weak. I attempt to offer a justification for the donation. Firstly, the notarization made the alternative contract ineffective by law; secondly, the media had nothing directly to do with the donation-acceptance notarization, because the event was reported after the notarization; thirdly, rewarding society shouldn't be morally censurable, even if one does not admire it highly in ethics.
Taken together, all the questions (especially the fourth) concern with the motive of the donation. The motive must have something to do with the virtues of the actor, while the virtues are reflected in a series of behavior in the everyday life of the actor. Through analyzing the donator's everyday behavior, we have found that he possessed some important virtues, such as optimism, enthusiasm, helpfulness and so on. So it looks impossible for him not to enjoy his life any more and want to die.
On the other hand, I don't think courage and forbearance are the appropriate ethical strategies for supporting the weak population to donate their organs. The weak should be dissuaded to donate organs. From the Confucian view (for instance, Mencius taught that "you should make yourself good when you are poor, and you should succor the world when you are wealthy"), it is the first responsibility of the weak to make themselves good instead of attempting to succor society.
Finally, the essay suggests that we should move towards an individual ethics through carefully made ethical analysis of individual virtues and responsibilities.
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Copyright (c) 2002 International Journal of Chinese & Comparative Philosophy of Medicine
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