Ethics Poll: The Amityville Kidney

"Wait---you're going to put THAT  inside me???"

“Wait—you’re going to put THAT inside me???”

In the comments to the post The Kidneys of Orlac, Texagg04 raises a fascinating angle that I had not considered. I have previously written, regarding state regulations that do not require realtors or sellers to disclose that a grisly murder or six occurred on a property, that a purchaser has the right to know about such conditions that may bother him personally, and that regardless of the laws involved, there is an ethical duty inform  a potential purchaser know that he is buying the site of the Amityville Horror (for example). Texagg04 suggests..

“Much like real estate agents ought to reveal that a house had a grisly murder in it, I’d submit that recipients of organ donations of this kind should get to be informed of the donor’s convictions.”

Hmmm. I’m not so sure. One of the reasons for my views about the death houses is that they may be difficult for the uninformed buyer to sell later if the home’s history is known or becomes well known. Also, there are always alternatives to buying a particular house—given a choice between the site of a murder and a similar house with no such history, I might opt for the latter—I’ve seen too many of the “Paranormal Experiences”  and “The Grudge” movies, I guess. But with donated organs, the options are more limited. Maybe not telling the recipient that he has the heart of the Green River Killer is the fair and kind thing to do.

Let’s vote!

24 thoughts on “Ethics Poll: The Amityville Kidney

  1. I voted no simply because I don’t think the system is going to work if it’s not kept anonymous.
    That is looking at the big picture.
    I still wouldn’t want the heart of a baby raper beating in my chest.

      • I’m going to agree with you there. The heart didn’t make the baby rapist commit the crime. I voted irrelevant. If it saves the life of a dear one, I don’t care who the organ came from.

        Much different from a murder house/haunted house scenario. I understand many of those new owners have to contend with gawkers and other crazies showing up.

      • Even if the only alternative was no heart beating at all???
        I know, right?
        It’s easy to say until you’re facing it.
        I’m guessing in my case the desire to live would win out over all.
        I am a scientist, I know perfectly well that man’s physical heart played no role in his crime.
        It’s still a little creepy, though, and in the wrong mental state, it could have disastrous effects on the patient recipient.

    • If you need an organ to live, but would turn down said organ
      It’s easy to say, sitting healthy at a keyboard, I will accept no criminal organs.
      But sitting in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitoring equipment and IVs, oxygen and so forth, looking at a beautiful day through glass, listening to the guy in the next bed breathe his last breath…standards are going to be lowered pretty damn fast.

      I’m sure there is more than one transplant patient who has already received a killer’s heart and doesn’t even know it.

  2. Ugh. I don’t even want to discuss this until tonight. I had a long and what I consider well thought out response to several concerns brought up in the previous discussion.

    Then I accidentally brushed the escape key before posting. I discussed this analogy as well. I had decided that in the case of the Murder Houses, potential buyers have a right to know because there is a very high likelihood that the news will get around and the stigma then adds an additional cost that the buyers had a right to know about. Organ transplants, I don’t think carry the same likelihood of accidental disclosure. That being said, if a recipient asks, I’m not sure how you can not tell them. Buyers have a right to know what the are buying (and that is what it is).

  3. I went with yes for two reasons, medical history and that some clerk somewhere may decide to disclose who a high profile killers body parts went to then making the recipient the target of reporters and tabloids.

  4. I think it should follow whatever donor anonymity laws are already in force. I don’t know what those are, exactly, but hopefully they are robust. There’s all kinds of objections someone could raise- would you want the heart of someone who married their first cousin? Killed a man in self-defense? Neglected or beat his children? What about someone who was black, Jewish, or gay? What if you just found out that everyone who knew your donor thought he was a real asshole?

    A donor organ isn’t a house, or any other consumer good. Sure, if I could choose between equally viable hearts of a condemned molesting murderer and a respected surgeon, I’d sentimentally want the “good guy” heart, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. If you’re putting yourself on the list, you’re directly competing with other potential recipients for lifesaving organs and it’s the height of tactlessness, stupidity, and nonsensical prejudice to turn one down.

    • Very relevant to the recent discussion of the woman who demanded more charity.

      The donors give as they see best aids those who have requested charity. I withdraw my market based response. The procedure may be a product purchased, but the organ is charity. Beggars can’t be choosers.

    • Presumably a brain would be the exception, no?

      So—would a Jew be be tactlessness, stupid, and nonsensical to say, turn down Goebbels’ lungs? Would a philanthropist want to live with Leona Helmsley’s heart? Would Robert Kennedy Jr. be unreasonable to reject Sirhan Sirhan’s corneas? Or is the origin or a vital organ really irrelevant—if it matters to someone?

      My anniversary is on 11/23, because we didn’t want the day associated with JFK’s murder.

        • The issue in this one way is the same as the killer house problem: Is Hitler’s heart just a heart, or is it materially different because of the owner’s strong feelings about it? I wish Peter, our site physician, was lurking, but I’d think that the prospect of survival and a successful transplant might be adversely affected if the recipient regarded the donated organ as alien or hostile.

            • Plus, it would be unethical to distribute hams from pigs that were ill at the time of slaughter, right? So donations are questioned at some level.

              I once had a wood desk (in perfect condition) turned down by a charitable organization because my apartment had a cat. They said that some of their clients have cat allergies. OK, I can understand that — but a wood desk? Wouldn’t a little Pledge take care of any lingering allergens?

          • You are right, the value proposition does matter to the recipient.

            It really boils down to: if recipient A is #2 on the list, do they forfeit their ranking on the list because of being picky or do they maintain their order on the list and all organs they refuse then trickle down the line and they then maintain their priority if a ‘preferable’ organ becomes available?

            I’d lean towards the last option.

          • I’d think that the prospect of survival and a successful transplant might be adversely affected if the recipient regarded the donated organ as alien or hostile.
            You would think right.

        • I’m not a physician but my brother is….so brains obviously run in my family. I think I can speak with authority on this subject when I say that Hitler’s heart would most likely be infected with coodies.

      • A Late reply (limited internets at home for Thanksgiving), but worth saying. Yes, I firmly believe the origin of the organ is ultimately irrelevant. Goebbels’ lungs didn’t do anything wrong, any more than Schindler’s did anythign right. They’re lungs. Marvelously evolved and invaluable to their owner, but not concsious and certainly not imbued with bad hoodoo. Outliving my enemy and forcing his organs to sustain my life? Priceless.

        As for the brain, that is a potential exception, pending more research on what a full or partial brain transplant would do to memory, emotion, and personality.

        And anniversary: The difference being, days are days. You could easily wait a week or two to avoid a date with negative connotations, without having your life endangered.

  5. I wouldn’t voluntarily ask for the heart of a child rapist in my body — per the original post I wouldn’t want the constant reminder of that crime. It could have an effect on my emotional health down the road. But, as long as we are talking about anonymous voluntary donors, I am fine with it.

  6. Wow…that was a very efficiently run mechanism. Everyone got their votes in with little trouble. It didn’t crash or anything. Jack, maybe you should offer to help run Obama’s healthcare website. Later on, you can turn the whole experience into a musical.

    • OK, Sharon, I was enjoying my grumpy mood until I read that and couldn’t help laughing.
      That was a good one.
      If it ever comes to pass, I want a front row seat.

  7. I think they should have a right to know. I have heard of cases where someone receiving a transplant develops a taste for a certain kind of beer or possibly chocolate. Admittedly, there is a far stretch from this change in behavior and becoming a “baby raper” or something else heinous. Still they should know when the organ is offered if they want to.

  8. Where do we draw the line of what kind of person’s organs are acceptable? Murderers? Rapists? Child molesters? Can someone say “no hearts from Jews or black people”?

    There are reasonable things that the organ donor registry and system of disbursal should be looking out for (like condition of the heart, health of the patient, if there is a disease that could be gotten by the recipient). It would be a waste of time of the people trying to put organ A with donor Z to then force them to worry about donor Z’s non medically necessary concerns over who had the part last.

    Does the organ work? Will it make me sick? Pretty much the only 2 questions a recipient should have to worry about.

    Yet the “truth master and keeper of all things logical” came up with this question. Interesting. Perhaps he should reevaluate his self appraisals.

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