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AbstractThis essay indicates that Confucian family-based ethics is by no means a stumbling block to organ donation in China. We contend that China should not change to an opt-out consent system in order to enhance donation because a “hard” opt-out system is unethical, and a “soft” opt-out system is unhelpful. We argue that the recently-introduced familist model of motivation for organ donation in mainland China can provide a proper incentive for donation. This model, and the family priority right that this model supports, is ethically justifiable in terms of Confucian family-based ethics.
AbstractThis special thematic issue of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy brings together a cross-cultural set of scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America critically to explore foundational questions of familial authority and the implications of such findings for organ procurement policies designed to increase access to transplantation. The substantial disparity between the available supply of human organs and demand for organ transplantation creates significant pressure to manipulate public policy to increase organ procurement. As the articles in this issue explore, however, even if well intentioned, the desire to maximize organ procurement does not justify undermining foundational elements of human flourishing, such as the family. While defending at times quite different understandings of autonomy, informed consent, and familial authority, each author makes clear that a principled appreciation of the family is necessary. Otherwise, health care practice will treat the family in a cynical and instrumental fashion unlikely to support social or individual good.
AbstractIn most, if not all, jurisdictions with active organ transplantation programs, there is a persistent desire to increase donation rates because the demand for transplantable organs exceeds the supply. China, in particular, faces an extraordinary gap between the number of organs donated by deceased donors and the number of people seeking one or more transplants. China might look to Western countries with higher donation rates to determine how best to introduce Western practices into the Chinese system. In attempting to increase its organ donation rate, China must not only ensure that its organ donation system reflects different Chinese cultural values, but also that it avoids the ethical problems of the United States and of other Western systems. This article examines four such problems. They concern the family, obtaining permission for organ donation, the definition and diagnosis of “brain death,” and trust. Revisions to the Chinese system should involve a careful look to China and Chinese cultural resources rather than to Western models.
AbstractOrgan procurement policy from the recently deceased recasts families into gatekeepers of a scarce medical resource. To the frustration of organ procurement teams, families do not always authorize organ donation. As a result, efforts to increase the number of organs available for transplantation often seek to limit the authority of families to refuse organ retrieval. For example, in some locales if a deceased family member has satisfied the legal conditions for first-person prior assent, a much looser and easier standard to satisfy than informed consent, organ retrieval may proceed despite the family’s objections. Some countries have replaced voluntary consent to organ donation with forms of organ conscription. Often referred to under the misnomer “presumed consent,” such policies legalize the harvesting of organs at death, unless individuals exercise official options to opt out. As this article explores, however, there are good grounds for affirming the authority of the family to consent to or to deny organ donation on behalf of recently deceased family members, as well as to reject first-person assent and “presumed consent” policies of organ procurement. Insofar as individuals have failed clearly and competently to provide informed consent to organ donation, moral authorization for the use of the person and his body ought to be grounded on the foundational authority of the family, rather than the state’s supposed interests in obtaining organs for transplantation.
AbstractThis paper explores organ donation through the perspective of Reconstructionist Confucianism. I argue that for organ donation in China to be morally permissible, public policy must conform to the norms of Confucian benevolence. Reconstructionist Confucianism appreciates benevolence as an objectively important feature of morality deeply connected to moral rules governing propriety, integrity, righteousness, and human freedom. Here, benevolence involves sincere affection for another as an intrinsic good, rather than as a means to achieve other purposes. It requires developing self-restraint and proper respect for others. As I argue, family-based consent is essential for ensuring that organ donation conforms to such an understanding of benevolence and is, thereby, compatible with Confucian culture. Consequently, legislation in China should solidify family-based consent for organ donation to consolidate a benevolent family environment as the basis of morality, law, and social existence.
AbstractThis paper asks whether investigation into the ontology of the extended family can help us to think about and resolve questions concerning the nature of the family’s decision-making authority where organ donation is concerned. Here, “extended family” refers not to the multigenerational family all living at the same time, but to the family extended past its living boundaries to include the dead and the not yet living. How do non-existent members of the family figure into its ontology? Does an answer to this question help to resolve questions about the distribution of authority within the extended family?
AbstractThe Western focus on personal autonomy as the normative basis for securing persons’ consent to their treatment renders this autonomy-based approach to informed consent vulnerable to the charge that it is based on an overly atomistic understanding of the person. This leads to a puzzle: how does this generally-accepted atomistic understanding of the person fits with the emphasis on familial consent that occurs when family members are provided with the opportunity to veto a prospective donor’s wish to donate after she has died and her organs are being considered for harvesting? It is argued in this paper that this charge can be met and this puzzle dissolved once it is recognized that autonomy is an inherently social concept.
AbstractChina is developing an ethical and sustainable organ donation and procurement system based on voluntary citizen donation. The gift-of-life metaphor has begun to dominate public discussion and education about organ donation. However, ethical and legal problems remain concerning this “gift-of-life” discourse: In what sense are donated organs a “gift-of-life”? What constitutes the ultimate worth of such a gift? On whose authority should organs as a “gift-of-life” be donated? There are no universal answers to these questions; instead, responses must be compatible with local cultural values. This paper argues that from a Confucian point of view, organs should be viewed as a gift from the donor’s family, and that final dispositional authority should also rest with the donor’s family. The worth of such a “gift” rests on the virtue of ren, the origin of which is family love. Ultimately, I will argue that a family-based consent model for deceased organ donation is not merely justified, but morally required in the Chinese cultural context.