Wrong note on organs

October 9, 1998

I find it extraordinary that a philosopher dares to conclude a trite and sophistical discussion about the sale of human organs for transplant ("Why II", THES, October 2) with an admonishment to us to be scrupulous and careful in our thinking about serious issues. Courage is not a substitute for cognition. Consider:

The medical risk problem is not reduced by a spurious claim to natural superfluity in the endowment of organs

Any surgical procedure is dangerous, and removal of a major organ represents a significant immediate and future risk to the donor

We make a fairly straightforward distinction between those who risk their lives for others because of a believed filial obligation of protection and assistance and those who may do so to avoid a natural or financial catastrophe

Real-world economics means that allowing the sale of organs will not lead to the chairman of ICI selling a kidney to finance his new Mercedes but to desperate people in the third world becoming the relatively cheap, spare parts store for the first world

For most cases, we have, as the phrase goes, the technology to meet our own needs as regards organ transplant (from dead to living). The problem is to overcome the emotional attachment to a lost person to save those who still have a chance.

Andrew Morgan

University of Wales, Swansea

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