Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kant on compensation for organ donors

The Jerusalem Post has a column making the case for compensation of organ donors: Recompense for organ donors.

It begins with the following interesting paragraph:
"No one can be sure exactly how long there have been organ transplants, or their ethical ramifications, but they were already mentioned in Kant’s Lectures on Ethics two centuries ago. He gave the specific example of selling teeth. Kant was against them; he felt they violated his “practical imperative” to treat others as an end and not merely as a means to an end. An organ, in Kant’s view, was part of a human being, and so selling one (and, presumably, giving one) to someone else would turn a person into a means only.
Kant may have been against them, but today we are for them. Organ donations today save people’s lives, not only their bites, and massive efforts are invested to encourage people to make donations."

To my surprise when I looked at Kant's lectures, he was actually thinking of live donation, since he considers the case "if someone were to sell his sound teeth as a replacement for the decayed dentition of somebody else." This is followed immediately by his judgements on the improperness of suicide, or selling oneself into slavery. So, I'm left uncertain about how Kant would feel regarding the contemporary debate about compensation for live kidney donation.

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