Ethics to Ponder

Monday Mr Burgess-Jackson posted a short ethics question:

You are a doctor. You have five patients, each of whom is about to die due to a failing organ of some kind. You have another patient who is healthy.

The only way that you can save the lives of the first five patients is to transplant five of this young man’s organs (against his will) into the bodies of the other five patients. If you do this, the young man will die, but the other five patients will live.

Is it appropriate for you to perform this transplant in order to save five of your patients?

I’d like to propose a variant, because I don’t think the doctor (“do no harm”) should ever consider this as given.

Consider the ethics of both patient and doctor.  Let’s change the patient in question (the one) slightly, the one patient is elderly and has been diagnosed (and checked by two independent doctors) with early onset Alzheimer’s which is and will progress. The patient does have very healthy organs. He has been tissue typed, matched, and have contacted, corresponded, befriended and dined with the five recipients in question. Then he goes to the doctor and request that the organs be taken to save lives now.

Consider the ethics from both from the point of view of the doctor and patient.

Should the doctor perform the operation? Is it appropriate for the patient to request this operation?  Was the patient’s request appropriate?

The patient is (and doctor) are Christian. Is this suicide or sacrifice? Charity or selfishness.  Dying so that others might live, or just avoiding the degradation and life of your sense of self decaying? Should it go forward in the context of Christian ethics, which opposes euthenasia?

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