Organ donation: a communitarian approach

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2003 Mar;13(1):1-18. doi: 10.1353/ken.2003.0004.


Recently, various suggestions have been made to respond to the increasingly great shortage of organs by paying for them. Because of the undesirable side effects of such approaches (commodification, injustice, and costs), a communitarian approach should be tried first. A communitarian approach to the problem of organ shortage entails changing the moral culture so that members of society will recognize that donating one's organs, once they are no longer of use to the donor, is the moral (right) thing to do. This approach requires much greater and deeper efforts than sharing information and making public service announcements. It entails a moral dialogue, in which the public is engaged, leading to a change in what people expect from one another. Among the devices that could help change the moral culture are a public statement, endorsed by community members and leaders, that expresses the community sense that donation "is what a good person does" and a community-specific web page that lists those who have made the commitment. A change in law so that a person's wishes in the matter are recognized as final and binding are also desired. This position paper deals only with cadaver organs and not living donors.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Cadaver
  • Commodification
  • Death
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Public Opinion
  • Public Policy*
  • Registries
  • Social Change
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Tissue Donors / psychology*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / ethics*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / methods*
  • United States