Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. email@example.com.
The Center for Ethics, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Shortages in the number of donated organs after death and the growing number of end-stage organ failure patients on waiting lists call for looking at alternatives to increase the number of organs that could be used for transplantation purposes. One option that has led to a legal and ethical debate is to have regulated markets in human organs. Opponents of a market in human organs offer different arguments that are mostly founded on contingent factors that can be adjusted. However, some authors have asked the question whether we still have a reason to believe that there is something wrong with offering human organs for sale for transplantation purposes, even if the circumstances under which the practice takes place are improved. One prominent argument regarding this appeals to the notion of human dignity. It is argued that organ selling violates human dignity. This paper presents a systematic discussion of dignity-based arguments in the organ selling debate, and then develops a social account of dignity. It is argued that allowing the practice of organ selling inherently runs the risk of promoting the notion that some persons have less worth than others and that persons have a price, which is incompatible with dignity. The approach is defended against possible objections and it is shown that it can capture the notion that autonomy is linked to human dignity in important ways, while dignity at the same time can constrain the autonomous choices of persons with regards to certain practices.