Non-Heart-Beating Donors of Organs: Are the Distinctions Between Direct and Indirect Effects & Between Killing and Letting Die Relevant and Helpful?
- Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 3, Number 2, June 1993
- pp. 203-216
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This essay analyzes the principle of double effect and, to a lesser extent, the distinction between killing and letting die in the context of the Pittsburgh protocol for managing patients who may become non-heart-beating donors or sources of organs for transplantation. It notes several ambiguities and unresolved issues in the Pittsburgh protocol but concludes that neither the principle of double effect nor the distinction between killing and letting die (with the prohibition of the former and the allowance of the latter under some circumstances) erects insurmountable obstacles to the implementation of the protocol. Nevertheless, the requirement of the principle of double effect that the intended good effects outweigh the unintended side effects necessitates careful attention to the probable overall impact of the proposed policy on organ procurement, particularly because public mistrust plays such a significant role in limiting the number of organ donations.