Self-Ownership and Transplantable Human Organs

Public Affairs Quarterly 21 (1):89-107 (2007)
Philosophers have given sustained attention to the controversial possibility of (legal) markets in transplantable human organs. Most of this discussion has focused on whether such markets would enhance or diminish autonomy, understood in either the personal sense or the Kantian moral sense. What this discussion has lacked is any consideration of the relationship between self-ownership and such markets. This paper examines the implications of the most prominent and defensible conception of self-ownership--control self-ownership (CSO)--for both market and nonmarket organ-allocation mechanisms. The paper contends that CSO rules out a large set of nonmarket mechanisms, including escheatage ("presumed consent"), compensated takings of organs, and restricted gifting. It also argues that CSO, if accompanied by an economistic concern for welfare, can underwrite varying types of markets in human organs, ranging from mutual-insurance pools to inter vivos (i.e., live donor) organ sales.
Keywords self-ownership  organ transplantation  organ markets
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