Robbing the Dead: Is Organ Conscription Ethical?

Assessment Instructions: Robbing the Dead: Is Organ Conscription Ethical?

• Write a 2-3 page paper that examines the moral and ethical considerations of organ conscription policies and theories.
Scarcity of Medical Resources
For this assessment, you will continue your survey of ethical principles in health care. Especially in our contemporary world, where the needs for health care outstrip available resources, we regularly face decisions about who should get which resources.
There is a serious shortage of donor organs. Need vastly outstrips supply, due not only to medical advances related to organ transplantation but also because not enough people consent to be cadaveric donors (an organ donor who has already died). Munson (2014) points out that in the United States, approximately 10,000 patients die each year because an organ donor was not available, which is three times the number of people killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
But what is an efficient and morally sound solution to this problem? The policy of presumed consent, where enacted, has scarcely increased supply, and other alternatives, such as allowing donors to sell their organs, raise strong moral objections. In light of this, some have advocated for a policy of conscription of cadaveric organs (Spital & Erin, 2002). This involves removing organs from the recently deceased without first obtaining the consent of the donor or his or her family. Proponents of this policy argue that conscription would not only vastly increase the number of available organs, and hence save many lives, but that it is also more efficient and less costly than policies requiring prior consent. Finally, because with a conscription policy all people would share the burden of providing organs after death and all would stand to benefit should the need arise, the policy is fair and just.
Demonstration of Proficiency
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and scoring guide criteria:
• Competency 1: Articulate ethical issues in health care.

  1. articulate the moral concerns surrounding a policy of organ conscription.
  2.  Articulate questions about the fairness and justness of organ conscription policy.
  3. Explain the relevance and significance of the concept of consent as it pertains to organ donation.
  4. Evaluate alternative policies for increasing available donor organs.

• Competency 5: Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, and respectful of the diversity, dignity, and integrity of others and is consistent with health care professionals.

Exhibit proficiency in clear and effective academic writing skills.

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Munson, R. (2014). Intervention and reflection: basic issues in bioethics (concise ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.
Spital, A., & Erin, C. (2002). Conscription of cadaveric organs for transplantation: Let’s at least talk about it. American Journal of Kidney Disease, 39(3), 611–615.
Do you consider the policy of organ conscription to be morally sound?
Write a paper that answers this question, defending that answer with cogent moral reasoning and supporting your view with ethical theories or moral principles you take to be most relevant to the issue. In addition to reviewing the suggested resources, you are encouraged to locate additional resources in the Capella library, your public library, or authoritative online sites to provide additional support for your viewpoint. Be sure to weave and cite the resources throughout your work.
In your paper, address the following:
• On what grounds could one argue that consent is not ethically required for conscription of cadaveric organs? And on what grounds could one argue that consent is required?
• Is the policy truly just and fair, as supporters claim? Explain.
• Do you consider one of the alternative policies for increasing available donor organs that Munson discusses to be preferable to conscription? Explain why or why not.
Submission Requirements
• Written communication: Written communication is free of errors that detract from the overall message.
• APA formatting: Resources and citations are formatted according to current APA style and formatting guidelines.
• Length: 2–3 typed, double-spaced pages.
• Font and font-size: Times New Roman, 12 points.

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Robbing the Dead: Is Organ Conscription Ethical?

The demand for organ transplantation outstrips supply with statistics showing that over 20 Americans die each day while waiting for an organ donation. The scarcity of organs means that there is a need for rationing, a strategy that many believe would enhance the availability of organs. With over 140,000 patients requiring organ transplants, the debate about ethical issues on organ conscription remains a controversial issue with many supporting the need for such laws while others oppose (Lewis et al., 2021). Conscription implies that people who die should donate their organs to save the lives of thousands that require transplants. Proponents assert that the advantages of organ conscription are more than individual decisions of donation (Levin, 2019). The decision of if this is right or wrong demonstrates ethical and moral dilemmas which form the basis of this paper. The paper advances that organ conscription is not ethical because it denies the demised individual inherent autonomy and consent rights.

Moral and Ethical Concerns

The almost-universal embracing of cadaveric organ donation is founded on express consent by a donor when not dead, either through an official voluntary opt-in or informal discussion based on the perceptions of the family. However, irrespective of the success of the current explicit consent about the transplantation models, the imbalance between the supply and demand continues to raise calls for the implementation of laws to validate presumed consent with facilities for opt-out as a way of increasing the availability of organs to meet demands (Rudge, 2018). Such organ conscription laws are not only unethical but raise concern about the possible trajectory that facilities and providers can take based on the thriving black market that exists today. The current opt-in system is ethical and moral because it implies that one must get consent from the individual or their family members before organs are removed and donated (Lewis et al., 2021). Having an opt-out system implies that consent is presumed and means that all people have the intent to donate organs when they die.

The realm of consent is an ethical aspect that cannot be ignored in this discussion. Retrieval of organs using conscription faces ethical hurdles since it bypasses consent to get organs from a deceased individual. The right to autonomy and consent does not end when one dies. That right should be respected despite the occasioned death. While having a conscription policy would help in meeting the rising demand, it will negate the essence of inherent dignity and respect for autonomy and consent by the dying individual and their next of kin (Munson, 2017). The policy would negate the individual’s autonomy and relationship with his body

Fairness and Justness of Organ Transcription Policy

Having a national organ transcription policy may not be the best solution to the country’s organ shortage problem. Nations like Spain, Australia and even Italy have an opt-out policy on organ conscription. However, they still face shortages in organ donations since the decision to donate one’s organ when dead constitutes moral and ethical facets and not legal trajectory (Rudge, 2018). Each ten minutes an individual is added to the list requiring transplants of different organs with at least twenty individuals dying while waiting for an available organ. The implication is that consent remains a core aspect of an effective organ transplant policy.

Having a conscription policy would be unfair and unjust for the dead individuals and their families since they will not have the chance to accept if their kin’s body and its organs should be separated (Prabhu, 2019). Such a policy amounts to the confiscation of organs with no consent from the deceased or the family. The implication is that policymakers must attempt to offer increased awareness about the current problem with emphasis that the donor reserves the right to give their organs based on effective information and informed consent.

Relevance and Significance of Consent related to Organ Donation

Consent is a critical aspect of expressing one’s inherent human dignity and autonomy or independence. Through consent, potential organ donors make the choice and exercise their rights over their bodies. The ethical theory of natural law assumes that there is goodness in human beings (Prabhu, 2019). By giving these individuals autonomy, they can make the best decisions not just for themselves but for the positive impact on society. Utilitarianism implores individuals to make decisions based on the greater benefits to the majority. Therefore, allowing these individuals and their families to exercise consent would enable society to get organ donors that seek the good of society even after their demise. Lack of consent implies that the donors have no choice or option as humans. consent should not be presumed but obtained based on biomedical principles like autonomy, beneficence and justice (Prabhu, 2019). Further, religious beliefs should be respected as they form a critical part of any ethical and moral action in society.

Alternative Policies to Increase Availability of Donor Organs

The increasing availability of donor organs remains a challenge for the healthcare industries, even if one on board some of the policy alternatives discussed in research work by Munson and other researchers. While policies like Required Response Laws targeted mainly at drivers and Organ Protection before Consent model provide clear incentives for organ donation, they still raise ethical and even practice questions (Munson, 2017). For instance, the Organ Protection before Consent may lead to compromised care provision for individuals in ambulatory care so that their organs can be accessed, more critically without their consent (Munson, 2017). The best policy alternative is to enhance public awareness and education about the benefits of individuals accepting to donate their organs when they die, especially unexpected through accidents or other short illnesses. Public awareness from a utilitarian perspective may increase the readiness for one to donate their organs when they die.


Conscription policy on organ donation raises ethical and moral concerns and should not be implemented as it would amount to depriving the dead of their rights to their organs. The current policy of opting-in is sufficient despite the present shortage. The best way is to increase public awareness about the need to embrace organ donation when one dies as this will constitute consent and acceptance.


Levin, S. B. (2019). Why Organ Conscription Should Be off the Table: Extrapolation from

Heidegger’s Being and Time. Sophia, 58(2), 153-174.

Lewis, A., Koukoura, A., Tsianos, G. I., Gargavanis, A. A., Nielsen, A. A., & Vassiliadis, E.

(2021). Organ donation in the US and Europe: The supply vs demand imbalance. Transplantation Reviews, 35(2), 100585.

Munson, R. (2017). Intervention and reflection: Basic issues in bioethics (concise ed.). Boston,


Prabhu, P. K. (2019). Is presumed consent an ethically acceptable way of obtaining organs for

transplant? Journal of the Intensive Care Society, 20(2), 92-97.

Rudge, C. J. (2018). Organ donation: opting in or opting out? The British Journal of General

Practice: The Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 68(667), 62–63.