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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 31, Issue 2, Fall 2017

Mark J. Cherry
Pages 171-187

Kidney for Sale by Owner
Endorsing a Secular Heresy

This paper defends an in principle understanding of the authority of persons over themselves and, in consequence, argues for significant limits on morally permissible state authority. It also defends an account of the limits of permissible state action that distinguishes between (a) the ability of persons to convey authority to common projects and (b) what may be judged virtuous, good, safe, or proper to do. In terms of organ transplantation policy, it concludes that it is morally acceptable, and should be legally permissible, for individuals to sell one of their kidneys while living, pocketing the cash to use as that person sees fit to advance their own understanding of their own best interests. Morally objectionable policy proposals, I argue, are not those that encourage individuals to sell a redundant kidney while living or families to sell the organs of a recently deceased loved one, but those that seek coercively to confiscate the organs of the recently deceased. Recognizing the authority of persons over themselves, and their ability to convey moral authority to common projects, including the sale of human organs for transplantation, would shed light on the medical marketplace and clarify public policy, while increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of procuring human organs for transplantation.

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