Harvesting Organs of “John Doe” Patients (by Catie Goodell)

[ By on May 15, 2017 ]

In Grey’s Anatomy, there are many episodes where an accident occurs and their identification has been lost, so they are titled a “John Doe.” In many cases, the John Doe either dies due to the accident or has been left brain dead, and the physician would like to harvest their organs for patients who have an identity and maybe some personal connection. Grey’s Anatomy, I will admit, as a TV Drama series, adds a personal connection and large backstory that makes the audience and the physician advocate for taking the organs of the John Doe. Although it is written in the law that organ transplants can only take place with consent from the patient or family, many people advocate for using the organs of one without an identity.

In a perfect utilitarian world, where everyone counts for one and none more than one, the body should be used because one body, which is already dead, would be used to save another one. The family would be able to save another life when one is already over. There does not appear to be any consequence to taking their organs. The only argument that I can see in defense of the families of the life that was lost is if there is a religious issue with surgery. Otherwise, it seems as though the organs go to waste and there is nothing wrong with the crux of the issue. I think Hume would agree with me on this issue though because it is an idea driven by sentiment. We are taking the organs of an already dead human being to save the life of another, despite the lack of identity. Although he is unidentified the feeling that motivates you to save the life of another should be the ultimate factor in saving a human life.

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4 Comments on “Harvesting Organs of “John Doe” Patients (by Catie Goodell)”

  1. KNF

    Hi, So I agree, yes. But to play devil’s advocate – does this imply that if someone dies and expressly does NOT want their organs used in donations, should we compel that anyway? (As in, what do they know about it? What do they care? And those organs can save lives…)

    We make a lot of decisions that aren’t utilitarian, not just for religious reasons but for simple wishes. As in, that’s what someone wanted, or what their next of kin wanted, so respect that wish. That plays out in a lot more than end of life plans, too.


  2. KNF

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ May 16, 2017 at 4:13 pm ]

    There are countries that have “assumed consent” policies for organ donation (Finland, Belgium, etc.). It has been suggested in the US, too. Should we do that? Nice consideration of various ethical frameworks.

  3. KNF

    There is that sticky issue of when is dead really dead. There is breathing, heartbeat, brain activity, and other criteria. There are families that would argue their loved ones are not fully verifiably dead and would want to wait. If the patient is not identified and loved ones not notified, where would this possibility fit into your discussion?

  4. KNF

    I would ask about weighing the greater good (in general helping sick people get better) vs. individual good. Does that have a place here? And if so, who does the weighing?

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