Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fabre Follow Up

The long-running Fabre review (Whose Body Is It Anyway?) was finally submitted about a week and a half ago now. Nonetheless, two quick related points:

1) Milan seizes on an Economist report about organ sales.

2) The paper for Monday's Moral Philosophy Seminar describes the case of Zell Kravinsky (p.16), who donated his kidney to a complete stranger. More on this:

here (would he give away the other one? - with a suggestion he'd pay a third party to donate!)
here (CNN transcript: "I think in terms of maximum human utility, not in terms of my own life")
here (he specified the kidney had to go to a low income black. "I had to convince them why I was doing it: because it is logically and morally compelling to save someone's life if you can")
here (records initial opposition to any transplants, on the grounds they seemed to harm the healthy to save the sick. "Raised in a Jewish family committed to socialism and left wing politics [remind you of anyone?]... when he read an article in the Wall Street Journal explaining that a kidney donor had only a one-in-four-thousand chance of dying from giving up an organ, Kravinsky understood that this was like buying a U.S. government bond. The risk involved was almost zero. But unlike government bonds, the dividend or pay-out in this case was fabulous. Some lucky person would get a whole new life" - also talks about Peter Singer)
here (a general story, with annoying music)


  1. I have heard that, in general, the years added to the life of the recipient are much fewer than those lost by the donor. If true, that pokes a big hole in utilitarian arguments, unless you really believe that the later years of life are miserable, compared to the earlier ones.

  2. I'm not an expert, but I didn't think donating something like a kidney would reduce your life, since you only need one to function heathily. Unless you just mean your expected future life is diminished by the (small) risks of surgery and/or failure of your only remaining kidney. But, in that case, you can't risk anything more than the person who already has no kidneys is likely to suffer...

    More generally, utilitarians need not assume years are the same value for everyone. E.g. if you could save a famous scientist, he might discover a cure for cancer or something.