The ethics of organ donations and prison


A kidney for your freedom? That’s hardly a real deal. There are laws against selling or buying organs. Whatever donations there are must be voluntary. A choice between being released from prison or giving your kidney to your sister comes very close to coercion.

This was the choice given a woman in a Mississippi jail. Her lawyer said that it was a victory. Well, the victory is that two women who received unjustly long sentences in the first instance will now be free. But it is hardly a victory for society. What other deals will be offered? How about your kidney in exchange for a tax break? The possibilities are enormous.

No doubt there is a long wait for those in need of kidney (and other organ) transplants. Those facing death without the donation of course want the organ. But sometimes society needs to put a fence around certain behavior even though they may be life-saving. Making the buying and selling of organs off-limits is one of those fences. The Mississippi governor has blown a hole in that fence. I am glad for the sisters but concerned about the precedent it sets.

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