An Ethical Question

The Daily Show’s already mostly made the same point, so I may as well put out here something that’s been rattling around my brain for a while.

Let’s say that, after some routine lab tests, your doctor informs you
that there’s a comatose patient at a nearby hospital. This person
needs a transfusion of some substance—let’s say some pancreatic
enzyme or something—and that you’re the only known compatible

The treatment involves extracting the enzyme at various times and
donating it to the patient. The treatment will last the better part of
a year, and you will be increasingly handicapped as time goes by. In
order to improve the chances that the treatment will succeed, you will
also need to watch your diet, not drink or smoke if at all possible,
avoid strenuous exercise, and so forth.

If the treatment is successful, the patient will awaken from the coma
and live a normal life. If the treatment is unsuccessful, or if you do
not cooperate in the treatment, the comatose patient will never
awaken, and will die, probably within the week.

Also, the patient has no family, and you will be expected to pay for
your part of the treatment; this is expected to cost several thousand
dollars. You may or may not have medical insurance, or money in
savings, or a job, or family and friends who can help support you.
Depending on your job, you may be unable to work toward the end of the
treatment, and you may or may not be able to take leave during the
procedure, or to recuperate afterwards.

A human life depends on you undergoing this treatment.

The question is not whether you would agree to this treatment. Rather,
the question is: should there be a law that says what you should do?

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4 Responses to An Ethical Question

  1. Eamon Knight says:

    Ah, but you left out the important part: it’s all your fault that patient needs the transfusion. You know, because of that thing you did when you were drunk? It’s an entirely just punishment to make you go through all that…..


  2. arensb says:

    Of course,yes. If only people would keep their filthy pancreases to themselves.


  3. Hmm, I thought there was a violinist involved. 😉


  4. arensb says:

    thoughtcounts Z:
    Thanks for the pointer. I came up with this analogy on my own, and didn’t realize someone had already thought of it.

    One of these days, I hope to have an original thought 🙂


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