Racist organ donors and saving lives

Bioethics. 2007 Feb;21(2):63-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2007.00526.x.


This paper considers what should be done about offers of organs for transplant that come with racist strings attached. Saving lives or improving their quality seem powerful reasons to accept the offer. Fairness, justice, and rejecting racism seem like powerful reasons against. This paper argues that conditional allocation should occur when it would provide access to organs for at least one person without costing others their access to organs. The bulk of the paper concentrates on defending this claim against these objections: (i) that the good that might come about through conditional allocation does so through wrongful complicity in the racist's wrongdoing; (ii) that conditional allocation symbolizes support for racism; and (iii) that conditional allocation is unjust or unfair and is, for that reason, impermissible. The final section, on conditional allocation as a policy, considers the speculative possibility that conditional allocation would reduce access to organs for some, but it argues that, even then, conditional allocation could be justified.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Selection / ethics*
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Justice*
  • Tissue Donors / psychology*
  • United Kingdom