Survival Lotteries Reconsidered
Bioethics 2007 September; 21(7): 355-363
In 1975 John Harris envisaged a survival lottery to redistribute organs from one to a greater number in order to reduce number of deaths as a consequence of organ failure. In this paper I reach a conclusion about when running a survival lottery is permissible by looking at the reason prospective participants have for allowing the procedure from a contractual perspective. I identify three versions of the survival lottery. In a National Lottery, everyone within a jurisdiction is a candidate for being a donor for everyone else, disregarding all differences between individuals' eventual possibility of needing an organ. In a Group Specific Lottery, it is a question of running a lottery among members of a specific group who share the same probability of getting organ failure. In a Local Lottery one randomises among individuals who are already in need of a new organ but who happen to be compatible and in need of different organs. While the first is vulnerable to considerations of fairness, it is difficult to perceive a feasible way to implement the second option that does not come with a host of unwelcome consequences. I argue, however, that it is permissible to run Local Lotteries.