Distributive Justice and Organ Transplants

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Throughout history physicians have faced numerous ethical dilemmas and as medical knowledge and technology have increased so has the number of these dilemmas. Organ transplants are a subject that many individuals do not think about until they or a family member face the possibility of requiring one. Within clinical ethics the subject of organ transplants and the extent to which an individual should go to obtain one remains highly contentious. Should individuals be allowed to advertise or pay for organs? Society today allows those who can afford to pay for services the ability to obtain whatever they need or want while those who cannot afford to pay do without. By allowing individuals to shop for organs the medical profession’s ethical belief in equal medical care for every individual regardless of their ability to pay for the service is severely violated (Caplan, 2004).

The Principle of Distributive Justice

The principle of distributive justice as it relates to healthcare requires that all resources are allocated equitably among all individuals. Resources, whether abundant or scare are distributed fairly to any individual requiring them but in the constrained resource environment of available organs criteria have already been established by other agencies. First and foremost the establishment of these criteria negate the principle of distributive justice because there are individuals who regardless of their place on the waiting list will be turned away. On the other hand individuals with higher incomes or additional financial means have the advantage over those with limited financial assets if advertising and purchasing organs is the future trend of transplant surgery. Again distributive justice is violated, this time ...

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...e identifies the need for improvement not in the distribution of the organs available for transplant, but in the education of policy and regulating agencies on diversity, multiculturalism and ethics that need to be applied prior to approaching the general public and asking them to become organ donors for the good of everyone.


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Moon, L. (2002). Organ Allocation. MiraCosta College website. Retrieved on February 27, 2011, from

Spicer, J. (2008). Distributive justice. Practice Nurse, 36(9), 45-48. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source. (Document ID:

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