Organ Seeker Violates the Golden Rule

Caseworkers from our organization recently went to the hospital to visit the family of a woman who suffered a stroke. The woman was dead, but machines continued to keep her organs functioning. She was an ideal candidate to be an organ donor. Her husband, it turns out, was on the waiting list to receive a heart.

Our caseworkers asked the husband if he would allow his wife’s organs to be donated. The husband, to the shock of our caseworkers, said no. He simply refused. Here was a man willing to accept an organ to save his own life, but who refused to allow a family member to give the gift of life to another person.

This is a Joseph S. Roth post at the New Jersey blog. HT: Alex Tabarrok via others.

Comments (7)

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  1. Virginia says:

    Nope. Nope. Nope. You should not receive an organ if you aren’t willing to give an organ in return. This guy should not be allowed to receive a new heart if he isn’t willing to give part of his wife’s organs to other needy folks. There’s something morally wrong with that.

  2. Brian says:

    Even so, it’s his wife’s organs, not his. So it’s a different situation.

  3. Matt says:

    We should not be so quick to pass judgement. Perhaps he knew that she did not want to be an organ donor for some reasons we are unaware of. Perhaps they discussed this. Amazing how quickly people are willing to crucify this man without knowing the specifics in this situation.

  4. Devon Herrick says:

    I wonder if his attitude would have been different if our system relied on an element of greed — the ability to gain financially in return for donating an organ. In the absence of monetary gain, we hope people will be altruistic. This example illustrates that people are sometimes guilty of hoping to find altruism in others when they themselves are not altruistic.

    That said, I tend to agree with Virginia. The man should not expect to benefit from organ donation when he is unwilling to assist others in similar need.

  5. Virginia says:

    What possible morally justifiable reason could his wife have for not wanting to donate her organs?

    I’m guessing that his wife, if she were alive, wouldn’t object to some other nameless patient giving up his or her heart to save her husband’s life. Why should she play by different rules? It’s like being willing to take money from charity but not being willing to donate.

  6. Chris says:

    Oh my god, that is my reaction to reading that post. People are actually asking for the government to get involved in coercing people into donating organs. People are both okay with that and see it as a legitimate function of government?

    The man who would give up his freedom for security deserves neither.

    I might personally feel that it is reprehensible to accept a donation, but then not be a donor, but I do not feel I, or the state, or you, have the power to dictate to someone what they do with their organs.

    You want more people to donate organs? Use a carrot, not a stick. Allow payments/rewards/whatever for donors. Numerous studies have shown how that would work, without infringing on anyone’s freedom.

    A previous comment compared this to charity, they’re right but their comparison is bogus. Charities do not give you a litmus test prior to giving you aid, that isn’t the point of being charitable. Look up the word in a dictionary. If you want something to be a charity, it needs to be a charity, not a country club for members only.

    Generally, if you’re trying to solve a problem, and your solution starts with “Have the government force..” you’ve lost the argument before you’ve begun. Maybe North Korea would be a better home for your philosophy, freedom isn’t so important there.

  7. Norm says:

    Pretty obvious why he needs a heart.