Public Policy and the Sale of Human Organs
Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 2002 March; 12(1): 47-64
Gill and Sade, in the preceding article in this issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, argue that living individuals should be free from legal constraints against selling their organs. The present commentary responds to several of their claims. It explains why an analogy between kidneys and blood fails; why, as a matter of public policy, we prohibit the sale of human solid organs, yet allow the sale of blood; and why their attack on Kant's putative argument against the sale of human body parts is misplaced. Finally, it rejects the claim that the state is entitled to interfere with the actions of individuals only if such actions would harm others. We draw certain lines grounded in what Rawls has termed "public reason" beyond which we do not give effect to the autonomous self-regarding decisions of individuals. Public resistance to the sale of human body parts, no matter how voluntary or well informed, is grounded in the conviction that such a practice would diminish human dignity and our sense of solidarity. A system of organ donation, in contrast, conveys our respect for persons and honors our common humanity.
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