Is organ donation to a family member a moral obligation? Is it possible to love ones child well, yet dent them the very organ that one is physically capable of giving them? True love often requires sacrifice on behalf of those one loves; it requires acts of self-giving for the greater good of the other. But this form of self-giving seems different in kind. However much we might praise those who give their organs to a beloved family member, can we condemn those who elect not to give, without first trying to understand their reluctance?
In short, no, to condemn one who chooses not to donate an organ to a beloved family member would seem both unethical and unreasonable. Application of Virtue Ethics In order to accurately depict, what one ought to do in such a circumstance, we will first explore virtue ethics, specifically the four principles. Respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance and justice. Using these four principles of virtue ethics allows for a common, basic rational analysis and structure even though they do not provide us with ordered “rules”, they will aide in making decisions as they relate to moral issues.
The four principles approach will not provide a method for choosing, what it can provide however is a common set of moral commitments, a common moral language, and a common set of moral issues. One should consider all four of these principles before coming to our own answer using our preferred moral theory to choose between these principles when they conflict. If we begin with examining respect for autonomy, the moral obligation to respect the self rule of others in so far as such respect if compatible with equal respect for the autonomy of all those potentially affected.
We can begin to understand that respecting this father’s autonomy has many potential implications. In that he specifically requested that one not indicate to his wife or other family members that he is the unparalleled donor for his daughter, one could cause a lifetime of unhappiness for all members involved and a lifetime of condemnation towards his own self one took no notice of his request. An additional element of respect for autonomy requires that one not deceive a patient.
In that he requested that the truth be withheld from all other members of the family, one would, if following the application of autonomy, and that one ought not to deceive indicating anything other than this patients request would be deceitful. For all intents and purposes given that the father is the ideal donor, he too has become a patient until such time as a final decision has been made as to whether or not he will or will not donate his organ.
The second and third aspects of the four principals of virtue ethics refer to beneficence and non-maleficience. Most often when trying to help others it is possible that the likeliness of harming them in the process exists. The traditional Hippocratic Oath, often referred to as the moral obligation of medicine is to provide complete benefit to patients with minimal harm- that is beneficence with non-mailificience.
To attain these moral objectives, we are committed to a wide range of obligations, by ensuring that we can provide the benefits that we profess. Oddly enough, what constitutes benefit for one patient, in this case, the father, may do extreme harm to another, the daughter. The fourth moral principal in virtue ethics is justice. Justice is often regarded as being identical in fairness and can be summarised as the moral obligation to act on the basis of fair adjudication between compelling claims.
One needs to tread cautiously if you have no special justification for imposing your own personal or professional views about justice on others. In this case, should the father finalize his decision to not donate his organ to his daughter, there is after all the advantage of the cadaver organ, despite the fact that the best likely outcome based on the specifics would be using his organ, the likelihood of the daughters survival would be greatly reduced using the cadaver organ. One must not impose our own values about justice in this case.
In other words, as one who has 3 small children and would give up the very air that I breathe so that any one of the three could live even a moment longer, it is not my place to make an unjustly decision without first considering the normative ethical theories depicted throughout this paper. Application of Act Utilitarianism By applying act utilitarianism, we should be better able to make a decision as to whether or not our ethics and morals require or dictate that one aide this father in his desire to offer a solution to his daughter’s medical needs, without sacrificing his own self.
If we observe act utilitarianism, one could ask themselves this. If I told the family that there was no likely match based on the results of the laboratory work, who would have the most overall happiness from this outcome? By asking ourselves who would have the most overall happiness by defying the fathers decided course of action, that is telling the family that the father is in fact the prime donor but at the same time indicating his expressed concerns of fear, one could clearly come to a resolution on the matter.
If act utilitarianism, is in fact “theory of ethics which states that a person’s act is morally right if and only if it produces as much happiness as any other act the person could perform at the time “, then the morally appropriate solution to this case would be to in fact deceive the father and advise the family thus creating a situation that perhaps all involved could be somewhat content with. Conclusion This child’s fate does not rely solely on ones decision to abide by the father. It in fact relies on the ability of the patient’s body to either accept or reject the organ transplant.
It is fair to say that theses contentious issues are not about the content of our moral obligation about to whom and what we owe them; they are questions about moral obligations. Our answers are reasoned and carefully argued but still deeply conflicting. Such a disagreement does not justify accusing those who disagree with us of incompatible moral standards; in principle it is open to resolution within our shared moral commitment. After all, “ethics is the difference in knowing what you have a right to do and what is right to do”.
I can with complete confidence say that if I was placed in the position of the doctor in this case study, I would like to say to him that he has an obligation to donate his organ to his daughter; she is after all his creation, his blood, his daughter. However much that is what I would want to say I know that it would be morally inappropriate and would consider explaining to the father the possible outcomes again of his refusal to donate and the fact that he could be the very reason his daughter survives this terrible situation but would still knowing that he too is a patient would be respectful of his ultimate decision for or against.