Manners Maketh Man: A Comparison of The Ethics of Anencephalic and Baboon Organ Donation

Aaron Moss

Abstract


A scarcity of organs available for transplantation dictates a need new sources. Two possible solutions to this problem are the use of organs from anencephalic newborns and those from baboons. This is a comparison of the ethics of these two sources, asking whether the sentient primate or the non-sentient human is the more appropriate donor. It is sustained that the definition of personhood requires the upper brain to be capable of functioning, resulting in an ability for selfconsciousness. There is an important difference, it is argued, between the human body and the person within it. As such, the anencephalic infant should not have the same rights as the sentient person. It follows that the life of the baboon, which is capable of feeling pain and has some cognitive ability, is more deserving of protection than that of the anencephalic neonate. In reaching this conclusion, a broad Utilitarian analysis is applied, treating the suffering of an animal of some worth, but the 'suffering' of the anencephalic newborn as irrelevant. It is acknowledged that on a Kantian analysis, the baboon is not a rational creature, but reference is made to Kant's belief that animals should nonetheless be treated with respect. It is found that Kant's theory would not prohibit a well-regulated system of xenotransplantation, but that the weight which Bentham attaches to an animal's suffering does provide insuperable difficulties. This is further explored, with the conclusion that the causing of any suffering makes a xenotransplantation program unjustifiable.

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