When good organs go to bad people

Bioethics. 2008 Feb;22(2):77-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2007.00606.x.


A number of philosophers have argued that alcoholics should receive lower priority for liver transplantations because they are morally responsible for their medical conditions. In this paper, I argue that this conclusion is false. Moral responsibility should not be used as a criterion for the allocation of medical resources. The reason I advance goes further than the technical problem of assessing moral responsibility. The deeper problem is that using moral responsibility as an allocation criterion undermines the functioning of medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Clinical
  • Health Care Rationing / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Life Style*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / complications
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation / ethics*
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Patient Selection / ethics*
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Social Values