Mandatory Autopsies and Organ Conscription
Hershenov, David B.
Delaney, James J.
Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 2009 December; 19(4): 367-391
Laws requiring autopsies have generated little controversy. Yet it is considered unconscionable to take organs without consent for transplantation. We think an organ draft is justified if mandatory autopsies are. We reject the following five attempts to show why a mandatory autopsy policy is legitimate, but organ conscription is not: (1) The social contract gives the state a greater duty to protect its citizens from each other than from disease. (2) There is a greater moral obligation to prevent murders than disease-caused deaths because killing people is morally worse than allowing people to die. (3) Autopsies do not confiscate body parts, but organ transplants do. (4) The citizenry's knowledge that their organs are very likely to be taken will generate more anxiety than the remote possibility of a mandatory autopsy. (5) A religious conviction that one's organs will be needed in order to be resurrected is threatened by organ transplantation but not by autopsies that "return" body parts.
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