Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quick Thoughts On Forced Organ Donation Hypo and Aborton

I have been having an interesting conversation via twitter with The R.oB. Opinion over abortion and the pro life movement.

This conversation is one that has been happening for some time as to his premise that the Pro-life movement is not really pro life but just pro baby.

Today he brought into the debate a “ bodily rights " or "the bodily autonomy" argument hypo.He also brings in the subject of Christian love and justice into the matter.

This argument and hypo which he presents is quite compelling .

First before we get to his hypo some needed background.

In many ways it's a rehash of the famous "Famous Violinist Problem", proposed  by Judith Jarvis Thomson in 1971 that deals with some poor soul that was kidnapped by the music lover's society and hooked up to a machines so his kidney's could also help extract poisons from not only his blood but the poor violinist.

That hypo has taken on some importance.

Prof Thompson in her now much reprinted article argued  if the unborn child is a human life or a "person"  is not relevant.

 A woman cannot be forced to donate her organs for nine months much like a person cannot be forced to donate a kidney in order to save someone else. In other words she is saying that the fetus is an infringement on the woman's personal bodily autonomy and an abortion procedure that results in killing is not a wrong. She has added abortion to the category of when it's ok to kill human life. Those being for instance self defense , capital punishment , just war etc.

This argument has had some legal effect. That is it strives to not to deny the humanity of the unborn child but to strike a balance. In many ways this is the argument that The R.oB. Opinion  has been making to me. In fact he mirrors the thought of current Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the head of the ACLU, she argued that Roe v. Wade should be recast from a due process decision to an equal rights decision. R. B. Ginsburg, Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade, 63

N.C.L. Rev. 375, 383 (1985). Her philosophy remains the same now that she serves on the Supreme Court, as her dissent in the partial-birth abortion case, Gonzalez v. Carhart, illustrates:

[L]egal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.

Dissent of Justice Ginsberg, Gonzalez v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, ___; slip op. at 1 (2007).

The R.oB. Opinion hypo we have been debating on twitter is interesting because we are actually dealing with a increase in complexities and ethic of organ donation. His hypo runs like this as I best can paraphrase

Since  people  have a kidney to spare  should be we be legally obligated to give  a kidney whenever one is needed? That is do we  believe that the government should physically seize a person with two kidneys, take them to a hospital by force, and remove that person's kidney without their permission?

It's quite clear the answer is NO or least I think most hopefully sane folks  would say that.  The argument continues

A pregnant woman is in a very similar situation. One person depends on another person for their very life. There is no debate about the fetus's personhood since that is ceded . Does the fetus have a right to exist that supercedes the mother's right to control her own body?

The R.oB. Opinion when it comes down to it seems to say  no from best I can tell so far. In our debate we talked about the hard cases of rape and mother life. However from the conversation I had with him its seems he is embracing the fullness of the organ donation scenario even with a Christian twist beyond these hard cases.

That is not to treat the forced organ donor the same as the woman is not of show love or justice to the woman. That is we are playing "favorites" and that is not Christ like. This post is getting incredibly long so I will have to engage the hard cases in another post. However I wanted to engage this hypo as it would applied in 99 percent of the cases.

I have revisited several articles I have read in the past on this issue and in large part inform a good bit of the  the post below. Two of the articles arguments I use are  Dr Francis Beckwith work here ,  and this  chapter by Patrick Lee and Robert George 

First, both hypos seem to assume moral obligations are all voluntary. This is a fallacy that also brings back an interesting facet of the gender issue.In reality in cases besides rape something very "voluntary" has of course happened  that resulted in a foreseeable  result we are dealing with here. However that is not what people advocating this theory mean  when say "voluntary".

 Let's say a couple despite doing everything they could to prevent a pregnancy has a child. The mother has the child over the objections of the father who wanted her to abort. She now sues for child support. If you want a case of the Court interfering  with bodily autonomy child support court is where it happens.

 The Court will order him to devote a portion of his energy and livelihood and work to taking care of his child. That supervision  and control over his "bodily autonomy" will last not just 9 months but very likely 18 years. Don't want get a job TOUGH here is a jail cell tend you put in a tad more effort.

 The Father unlike the forced donor organ is not a stranger , but is in a relationship with the child just like the mother. The mother in reality is bringing the Father to court to enforce a relational and natural obligation he has to the child. It matters little if his excuse is  the pill did not work or the condom broke and thus not "voluntary".

Second, a good case to be made the child has at the very least a Prima Facie NATURAL  RIGHT TO BE IN THE WOMB. The womb is a natural place for a child. Where being hooked up to a machine to save a violinist or restrained to have your organs forcibly removed in not natural.

For more on this see this very good article A Kidney versus the Uterus   where she engages a slightly different donor hypo . She says in part :

Once one looks at the function of the kidneys and the uterus, it is quite clear why the professor's analogy does not have merit. The kidneys exist for the health and proper functioning of the body in which they reside. In other words, kidneys exist in a body, for that body. In contrast, the uterus exists in one body, to be around - and for - another body. The fact that a woman can live without her uterus but a fetus cannot shows that the uterus exists for the unborn child rather than for the mother. The unborn, as members of the human family then, must not be denied the environment that regularly waits in great expectation for them.

The fact that the uterus, an organ created to nurture the unborn, belongs to the woman tells us something very important - and beautiful - about the nature and purpose of women: that they are to be mothers (whether in physical or spiritual form). A pregnant woman becomes a tabernacle enveloping a person made in the image of the Divine. Far from being viewed as an injustice, as an intrusion on one's bodily rights, it should be viewed as a fulfillment of one's purpose - the purpose both of the woman and of her body, including her uterus. While we cannot deny the difficult, even tragic, life circumstances that a pregnant woman may face, the life in her womb is not something to be destroyed. It is something - someone - to hold in awe, to admire with sacred reverence, declaring as Elizabeth once did to her cousin Mary, "Blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (Luke 1:42)

The role of woman as mother means that she (like the father) has a responsibility to her offspring that she does not have to strangers.2 And while that responsibility does not obligate her to do extraordinary things, such as taking trips to Disneyland or donating kidneys, it does obligate her to do ordinary things, such as feeding, clothing, and sheltering her offspring. To do otherwise would be parental neglect. In fact, Western countries have made it illegal for parents to neglect their children. And so, maintaining pregnancy is simply doing for the unborn what parents must do for the born - providing the shelter and nourishment a child needs. It is what is required in the normal course of the reproduction of our species.

While it true pregnancy entails all sort of physical, emotional, and financial burdens this also occurs in parenthood in general.

This is one reason why we sanction parents by law that abuse and neglect their children and don't allow killing of bothersome children if they are no longer wanted. Much like the organ donor if someone drops off a infant on my front porch I don't have then a natural obligation to take care of that child for 18 years. It's not clear why if the child is human these rights should differ in the womb than in post womb life.

As pointed out people can make a case that somethings might outweigh the child's interest such as the life  of the mother. However at the very least the child has a prima facie case for that right.

Third, denial of treatment is not the same as a intentional killing. While it might be a great act of Christian love to donate a organ it is not the same as a moral and natural obligation. A mother and father that have natural obligations for a child dependent on them are in a far different situation. No one for instance would say that if a mother refused to feed an infant that she just denying or withholding  assistance like a organ donor that likes the fact he has two kidneys . She ( as well as the father) is responsible for the dependence of the child as to where some perfect stranger with a kidney is not.

The parental relationship itself – not just the voluntary acceptance of that relationship – gives rise to
a special responsibility to a child.

Advocates  of the bodily rights argument  seem to want to deny this point. Many claim that one
has full parental responsibilities only if one has voluntarily assumed them. The incredible logic of this position would put the foundation of American family law in incredible danger .

A final word on organ donation and how it applies here.. The Church since the days of Pius XII  has been explicit on the qualifications of organ donations both as cases of living and the dead.

The Catechism states :

2296 Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

Needless to say forced organ donations are a non starter. But as The R.oB. Opinion  has argued to me is the Church being consistent. I think it is. Christ did not upset the natural obligations parents have to their children. Parental obligations are far different than those of others we live with in the Christian and larger world.

Pope Benedict said in CARITAS IN VERITATE

First of all, justice. Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity[1], and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI's words, “the minimum measure” of it[2], an integral part of the love “in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18), to which Saint John exhorts us. On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving[3]. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world.

Further Pope John Paul the II said as to organ donation

It must first be emphasized, as I observed on another occasion, that every organ transplant has its source in a decision of great ethical value: "the decision to offer without reward a part of one's own body for the health and well-being of another person" (Address to the Participants in a Congress on Organ Transplants, 20 June 1991, No. 3). Here precisely lies the nobility of the gesture, a gesture which is a genuine act of love. It is not just a matter of giving away something that belongs to us but of giving something of ourselves, for "by virtue of its substantial union with a spiritual soul, the human body cannot be considered as a mere complex of tissues, organs and functions... rather it is a constitutive part of the person who manifests and expresses himself through it" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, 3).

Christian love and charity , unlike justice , cannot generally be  mandated by law. Thus the crucial difference between giving what is owed  ( Justice) to a child such as not directing lethal force, and the person that makes the sacrifice ( Love Charity ) to give affirmative assistance by giving  one's organs.


Anonymous said...

The problems with your argument here are:

1) pregnancy doesn't just require a uterus. The developing child is also using - and sometimes destroying - body parts other than the uterus. Parts that women cannot live without.

2) a woman who does not or cannot have children is not a flawed woman - and God may still have given her a uterus, so there is no reason to believe that every woman's natural role is "mother" or that every uterus belongs to a child.

3) God never once gave any indication anywhere at any time that a woman's obligation to her child is more natural or requires more than her obligation to a stranger. In fact, God did the exact opposite by demonstrating proper love - a love that would lay down one's life for any and all of humanity. Jesus's entire life destroyed all our assumptions about to whom we are obligated, broke down (or attempted to, until his "Church" built them back up) all notions that some humans - our relatives, friends, etc - have more right to our material resources than others.

Personally, I think it absolutely abhorrent that ANY Christian would claim a right to bodily autonomy that would lead to the death of another. Those who claim that, because they are not related by blood, they are not obligated to donate their organs to save a life (but can have the government obligate others to do so) will have a lot to answer for to the one who donated His entire life.

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