Is there a philosophical case to be made AGAINST organ donation?

Think of it this way: If I donate my organs, I am prolonging another person’s life. However, that person will eventually die regardless, and nothing can prevent that. Therefore, why should I make any special effort to prolong the inevitable? A total stranger’s fear of death is not my concern, since it is a universal fear that we all face.
What are the potential consequences of this type of thinking? Two possible avenues have occurred to me. One is that the decision would be easier if the person to receive the organ were to perform some important duty to benefit society. But in reality, most people who receive organs are older retirees, whose most productive years are more-or-less behind them.
The other avenue is that people must be kept alive because human life has inherent value. The philosophical corner this puts me in is arguing that the organs of someone in a coma must also be replaced, because their life is still valuable, even if they are a vegetable.

*- I should mention that I am on record as an organ donor myself, and this thread is intended as a philosophical exercise only.

I don’t know that “I don’t give a damn how long other people live” is a case against organ donation exactly. If you wanted to make a case against it, you’d have to demonstrate why it’s a bad thing.

Might I point out that, by the time you would be donating an organ, not much of anything is your concern? Yer dead, a piece of meat that’s simply going to rot away. Certain parts can be recycled.


Wait-are you saying that by doing so, we’re only prolonging the inevitable?

Okay. I believe someone suggested this to Audrey Hepburn, when she was doing her work for UNICEF. Her argument was-“Okay, the next time your child gets sick, don’t buy them medicine. Or take them to the doctor and get antibiotics.”

Because not ALL recipients of organs are elderly people with nothing to do. Can we get a site on that?


I agree with Captain Amazing that you have provided no argument against organ donation, in general. You have expressed a notion that would permit you to choose not to donate, but have not provided a reason against other people making a different choice.

A rabid ZPG advocate might provide an argument that prolonging any life is bad (since we need to sweep these polluting humans off the planet), but simply declaring that one has no obligation to provide organs does not establish a reason to discontinue the program.

Here are two:

«1» The following belief comes from a religious movement in Japan, though I forget which one, the Japanese having quite a few “new religions”: For a day (maybe two days, I forget) the soul is connected to the body by a “silver cord” (of spiritual essence, natch). Thus, the soul feels the pain of being robbed of its organs. (Hope I got that right.)

«2» Organ donation to random human persons is of little value in today’s world, where human life is more common than bad sitcoms, and often of similar value. If I donate an organ to save an endangered species, or a specific person whose later life is of serious real value to the future of the world, fine. But prolonging the life of random guy with a failed liver or ruined lungs? Letting him live, only to be the same schmuck he probably was in life, is waste of the resources used to feed him for the rest of his life. A single human life just isn’t that valuable at this point in time. (This, by the way, is why I am not an organ donor.)

The only problem with organ donation is disease, or possible conflicts with different body types, especially when the donor is an animal like a pig. For example if you gave the liver of an Asian man to a Norwegian man there would probably be problems with alchohol consumption.

Philosophically speaking…
If you donate your corneas to one person, your lungs to another, your heart to someone else, your liver to yet another person, and your kidneys to perhaps two people – wouldn’t your undead corpse just have to track down six people to reclaim its missing parts? That would be a real waste of time.

Though I have no idea where they got this statistic, according to this site

This table shows that 25,566 of the 48,349 people (53%) awaiting kidney transplants in the U.S. as of June, 2000 were under 50 years old. Approximately 17.5% were under 35 years old.

I’m not saying we SHOULDN’T donate; I’m saying, if someone wanted to convince another person not to do it, what conceivable argument could they use? Does such an argument even exist? I never said i would ascribe to it. What I said above is merely my abortive attempts to think up such an argument.
I think arguing this requires a fundamentally different view of the value of human life than what most people in Western societies now hold. For the most part, we assume every life has value. It’s what we are taught, both subtly and directly, from birth. I think it is impossible to use logic to convince people otherwise. Is this really true?

And the anecdote about Hepburn is fallacious unless she was talking about terminally ill children. If she was, than that’s exactly the choice I’m talking about.

to play devil’s advocate, a few reasons:

  1. having no corpse to mourn over might upset family members, particularly elderly ones.
  2. that Japanes spirit thing.
  3. You should consider freezing yourself until you can be cured of whatever killed you.
  4. Choose to die in a country where your survivors can SELL your organs.
  5. Soylent Green is made of PEOPLE! Where do you think they get them?
  6. Any statements that generally appeal to the “creeped out” side of the potential donor’s nature will be effective.

But, there are more and better reasons TO donate. So if you want to convice people NOT to, all you have to do is ignore all the good reasons and hope for they don’t think about it too much. The odds are good! That’s how most “education” is done. :stuck_out_tongue:

foolsguinea, I must say I find your post morally abhorrent. If you were the one who was ill, I don’t think you’d look so poorly on the process.

Think of it this way: you are in the desert, and a man is dying of thirst. You have water that you do not need. While there is no legal repercussion for not saving the man, you lose nothing by saving his life.

Do you assume:
A.) The guy is a worthless schmuck who didn’t bring enough water. It’s better for him to die than to waste precious resources.

Or do you:
B.) Save the man’s life without having to pass judgement on whether or not that he deserves it.

I’d pick B every time. Hell, I’m an environmentalist, but I can’t be so callous to people who are suffering (not to mention their families)! Would you feel the same way if the person getting your organ was a child? Or, someone you knew?

It’s no bother to me what happens to my body after I die. I might as well leave it to save a few lives. Disease doesn’t pick people who don’t deserve to live. It chooses indiscriminately.

If you want to lower population or reduce environmental risk, I can think of a lot of better ways than willfully denying life from others. I certainly hope that you can, too. Why not do something that (gasp) changes your life rather than denies others the right to live?

If you want to call it selfishness or laziness, then call it that. Don’t pretend you’re saving the world by not being an organ donor. You’re not.

A conceivable argument? Well, aside from any religious stuff about actual human bodies being resurrected during armageddon (what the shark attack victims will do, I do not know), one might come up with the theory that doctors put less effort into saving someone who has consented to having his/her organs be donated. You know, sacrifice one to save a few. I didn’t say it was a sound argument…

I heard someone say once, “Why should some asshole get my organs?”

But seriously, sometimes it prolongs the “dying process” for some families who just have been through hell and want to be done with it. Keeping in mind that DENIAL is usually one of the 1st responses to death, if you haven’t admitted to yourself that mom or sonny is dead, how can you conceive of donating their organs, right?
Plus, some people can’t stand the ‘visual’ of their loved ones organs being harvested.
Some people believe that you need/should accept your fate as God has given it to you, kidney failure or not.

I have never witnessed a doctor throw his hands in the air and say," screw it, call the transplant team and donate his organs!!" On the contrary, most good potential organ donars are young , therefore illicit a more aggressive response/ approach with regard to treatment decisions.
May not be philosophical but I guess it doesn’t have to be.

A couple of thoughts off the top of my head. I don’t necessarily agree with any of them, but the OP asked for anti-donation positions, so don’t ask me to defend them, thanks. :slight_smile: I’ll offer four arguments against organ donation and the transplant system that don’t rely on archaic religious beliefs.

#1. Organs are valuable commodities, yet the government has set a fixed price of $0. It shouldn’t be suprising that there’s always an artifical shortage of much-needed organs. Those involved in the transplant process profit, why shouldn’t the donor or his/her heirs? By refusing to participate in the transplant system, the government, insurance companies, or recipients will be forced to compensate the donor for his/her valuable contribution.

#2. Organ transplantation is a dead-end technology. There’s no doubt that we’ll still need it as a procedure of last resort for the next few decades. However, research money would be better spent developing selective organ cloning or artificial components to produce rejection-free, custom fit tissue for the recipient.

#3. Cost/benefit analysis. The cost of transplantation is onerous. If the recipient cannot afford the procedure, in many cases the government, i.e. you and I, must pay. If the recipient has sufficient insurance to cover the procedure, those costs will be distributed among policy holders in the form of higher premiums. ISsthe benefit of transplantation worth the extra burden on the rest of society? In some cases, transplantation will save money, akidney transplant for renal failure rather than a lifetime of dialysis, for example, but that is not the norm.

#4. Merit is not a factor in deciding who receives the donated tissue. Yes, those in greatest need go to the top of the list, but that does not necessarily factor in the age, value, or experience of the potential recipient. A younger person should have priority over an older person. A man with a family to support should precede a single man. A person who soaked their first liver in alcohol shouldn’t get a second bite at the apple.

Devil’s advocate mode on.

The best argument I’ve heard is one that evilhanz just gave; one can’t sell one’s organs. My organs are my property, or at least the property of my next of kin when I die. They are valuable. They could fetch thousands of dollars on the open market. Unfortunately, it’s against the rules to sell them.

Let’s return to fluiddruid’s analogy. You can:

A) Refuse to give away your water.
B) Give away your water for free.
How about:
C) Sell your water.

If you sell your water, it’s a win-win situation. The other guy gets his water, and you make a few bucks.

Let’s translate this into organ donation. If you don’t donate, nobody wins. If you do donate, some little boy gets to live, but your family gets screwed out of the several thousand dollars they could have made off of your organs, plus you’re dead and they have to pay for your funeral. If you have your organs sold, the little boy gets to live (even if his family might not be able to buy him that X-box he wanted for his birthday), and your family gets to make the best of a bad situation; they can easily afford a tasteful funeral for you, and they have a little nest egg in the bank for a rainy day.

This isn’t really an argument against donating organs, but it IS an argument against the current system.

Devil’s advocate mode off.

Just a little more light re who we are talking about here. are the people waiting for a Liver in the US. Please note that of the circa 16,000 on the waitlist in 2000 approx 1000 were under 18 and circa 6000 were 18-34.

Off my soapbox and “playing fair” with the OP – Some Urban legends and Organ donation:

The African American community have lower rates of organ donation – one reason is a (false) belief that there is a racist distribution of organs i.e. taking “black” organs and giving them to sick white people over sick black people.

There is a false belief that extra medical bills are charged to families of Organ donors.

There is a false belief that donated organs might be sold on a “black market”

There is a false belief that the donor’s corpse will be terribly disfigured and a normal funeral made impossible (false in less your being buried in a speedo I should say).

These are real (and entirely false in the U.S.) beliefs that keep moral people from donation.

I believe the main argument against selling organs is that it would probably cause a lot of squabbling and accusations, and perhaps even corruption. Nobody wants to be let go because it’s more profitable to sell organs, or have people choose to off themselves so that their starving family will cash in.

I personally find it immoral to charge for water to a man dying of thirst if I have absolutely no need for, nor any other way to gain from, the water that I have. It just seems… exploitative.

I forgot to add that it would make the wealthy be more likely to receive transplants (even more so than now), which I don’t think is a good idea. If organs went at market value – as a very limited and valuable resource – many, many families and individuals could not afford them.

I could see perhaps a small compensation (a few hundred dollars) towards the funeral and/or a charity or memorial fund in order to encourage people to donate. But out-and-out selling organs? Ergh… just seems like a bad idea to me.

I do not think that there is a philosophical case against organ donation. But I do think that there are a number of other reasons why people should carefully consider this decision.

  1. religion, as previoulsy stated some religions dont ‘approve’
  2. family actually wants to bury you whole
  3. in some countries it is up to the donators family to pay for the operation to remove the organs. This can be very very costly as it is not covered in many insurance policies. as the policy expires when you die.

I feel that we all should donate our organs. But i dont know many that will or who can afford to…