Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Abortion and organ donors

Peter Singer is arguably the most influential secular bioethicist of his generation. He's a proponent of abortion and infanticide, as well as euthanizing the mentally and physically disabled. And he's the father of the modern animal-rights movement.

One of his arguments is to draw invidious comparisons between the cognitive development of a one-year-old chimp and a one-year-old child. Since humans take longer to mature than chimpanzees, there's a sense in which a one-year-old chimp is more mature, more developed, than its human counterpart. Of course, that's not a fair comparison. You should compare a one-year-old chimp with what would be the equivalent for a child. 

But in any event, many people who support abortion appreciate Singer's arguments. However, there's a catch.

He's a utilitarian. The common good trumps individual rights. In principle, a utilitarian will support involuntary organ harvesting. At present, the human body has the following reusable organs: kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs, skin, bones, and corneas. 

There are patients in desperate need of organ transplants. There are more patients than donated organs to go around.

But in principle, one healthy donor could supply several desperate patients. Of course, if you remove one or more vital organs from a healthy donor, he won't survive. 

In utilitarianism, it would be justifiable, perhaps even obligatory, to kill a heathy patient to save several ailing patients. The common good trumps consent. 

And this is more than just hypothetical. To the extent that society abandons Christian ethics, anything goes. It becomes a question of what you can persuade judges or lawmakers to accept. The rules are whatever rules we make. 

I doubt those who sign onto Singer because they like what he says about abortion would like to be on the receiving end of his value system when they are strapped to a table to donate vital organs (or corneas) against their will. They may not think that's a realistic danger, but if they have their way, that's the future. 

No comments:

Post a Comment