Fighting NOTA: The Greater Moral Obligation

13 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2017

See all articles by Thomas Firey

Thomas Firey

Cato Institute; Maryland Public Policy Institute

Date Written: April 10, 2017


In 2010, St. Mary's College of Maryland philosophy professor Michael Taber challenged his students to formulate an ethical argument on whether he should or should not, as a living donor, donate a kidney to an unknown person in need of transplant. The assignment received public attention, including a prominent write-up in the Washington Post.

This paper, written by one of Taber's former undergraduate advisees, is a response to that assignment. The paper argues that, in light of the public attention given the assignment, Taber should use that platform to campaign for the repeal of a federal prohibition against compensating organ donors for the donations, going so far as to threaten that he will not donate the organ until that repeal happens. The paper explains why the prohibition is both unethical and bad public policy, and criticizes arguments made in defense of the prohibition. It further argues that such a media campaign by Taber could produce considerably more public benefit than a single kidney donation.

This argument is made using utilitarian reasoning, but its arguments are supported by other ethical systems. However, the paper adds, in some ethical systems, it may be ethically superior to make that public pronouncement but then secretly donate a kidney anyway, and then publicize that sometime after the fact. The paper concludes with the author considering whether he should make a living donation of his own kidney as an inducement for Taber to follow this recommendation.

Keywords: organ transplant,

JEL Classification: i11, i14

Suggested Citation

Firey, Thomas, Fighting NOTA: The Greater Moral Obligation (April 10, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Firey (Contact Author)

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States
2022184636 (Phone)
2028423490 (Fax)


Maryland Public Policy Institute ( email )

One Research Court
Suite 450
Rockville, MD 20850
United States
2406863510 (Phone)
2406863510 (Fax)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics