Double effect donation or bodily respect? A 'third way' response to Camosy and Vukov

The Linacre Quarterly (forthcoming)
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Is it possible to donate unpaired vital organs, foreseeing but not intending one's own death? We argue that this is indeed psychologically possible, and thus far agree with Charles Camosy and Joseph Vukov in their recent paper on 'double effect donation.' Where we disagree with these authors is that we see double effect donation not as a morally praiseworthy act akin to martyrdom but as a morally impermissible act that necessarily disrespects human bodily integrity. Respect for bodily integrity goes beyond avoiding the aim to kill: not all side effects of deliberate bodily interventions can be outweighed by intended benefits for another even if the subject fully consents. It is not any necessary intention to kill or harm another or oneself that makes lethal donation/harvesting illicit but the more immediate intention to accept or perform surgery on an (innocent) person combined with the foresight of lethal harm and no health-related good for him or her. Double effect donation falls foul of the first condition of double effect reasoning in that the immediate act is wrong in itself. We argue further that the wider effects of such donation would be socially disastrous and corrupting of the medical profession: doctors should retain a sense of nonnegotiable respect for bodily integrity even when they intervene on willing subjects for the benefit of others.

Author Profiles

Anthony McCarthy
International Theological Institute
Helen Watt
University of Edinburgh (PhD)


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