Do Gifts Create Moral Obligations for Recipients?

The American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 20-22, 2004

Posted: 18 Apr 2006

See all articles by Mary Simmerling

Mary Simmerling

Adler University; Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medical College

Peter Angelos

Northwestern University

Aviva Goldberg

Independent Author

Joel Frader

Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine

Abstract

In "An 'Opting In' Paradigm for Kidney Transplantation," David Steinberg proposes increasing the number of cadaver kidneys available for transplantation through an "opting in" scheme to encourage people to prospectively agree to organ donation at death. Steinberg's proposal includes a critique of the ethical justification for live donor transplantation, and an argument in favor of this new approach. We argue that Steinberg's primary argument against live donation (i.e., the unacceptable risk argument) is not sufficiently compelling to consider lessening our reliance on this practice. With regard to Steinberg's proposed "opting in" scheme, we focus on a fundamental conceptual problem in the proposal: implicit in Steinberg's proposed "opting in" scheme is the idea that gifts create corresponding and reciprocal duties on the part of potential recipients. We reject this conception of donation and gifting, which we argue relies on a mistaken understanding of altruism. Instead, we suggest that while organ donation is a meritorious act, it is not one that is legally or morally required.

Suggested Citation

Simmerling, Mary and Angelos, Peter and Goldberg, Aviva and Frader, Joel, Do Gifts Create Moral Obligations for Recipients?. The American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 20-22, 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=896571

Mary Simmerling (Contact Author)

Adler University ( email )

17 N. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medical College ( email )

1300 York Avenue
New York, NY 10065
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://vivo.weill.cornell.edu/display/cwid-mcs2006

Peter Angelos

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Aviva Goldberg

Independent Author ( email )

Joel Frader

Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine ( email )

Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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