• Teck Chuan Voo

Student thesis: Phd


Organ donation is traditionally based on the notion of making a gift based on altruism. An important aspect of 'altruistic gifting' is commitment to a solidaristic approach to meeting transplant needs. In line with this, people are encouraged to donate their organs at death to a common pool for collective provision, or donate a live organ to another freely. Given a chronic organ shortage, proposals have been made to change this system to increase donation. Proposals include introducing some organ market or payment in the form of a reward to incentivise live or deceased donation. However, these proposals have been opposed because of the grip of 'altruistic gift' as the only ethically acceptable way to procure and distribute organs. To support the ethical acceptability of other systems, 'altruistic gift' has been subject to various criticisms. One criticism is the moral relevance of altruism: people may donate on other motives other than altruism; or, altruism is not the motive that underpins most deceased organ donations. Another criticism is the moral value of altruism: even if deceased organ donations are in general altruistic, altruism does not express communal virtues like generosity that support solidarity.A third criticism is the value of the concept of altruism when understood in the pure sense: 'pure altruism' fashions an unnecessary or false dichotomy - gift versus sale - in the way people can ethically relate and help each other. Consistent with or following this criticism, it has been argued that use of a financial reward to incentivise donation can be compatible with preserving donation as altruistic albeit in a 'non-pure' sense. 'Altruism' and reward can co-exist as motives for donation. This thesis concerns itself centrally with the third criticism. It argues that the concept of altruism delineates a distinctive moral 'perspective' of a common humanity that engenders a devotion to others' interests. Accordingly, as I argue, 'non-pure' definitions of altruism are misleading as to how a financial reward can be compatible with altruism. From this, the thesis argues that introduction of a financial reward for organ donation would not preserve donation as altruistic. Based on an understanding of altruism as also a motive for 'creative' relationships, the thesis counters criticisms of its relevance and value to deceased organ donation under a gift model.As part of its legal analysis, the thesis considers the antithesis of 'altruistic gift': the idea of organs as property which places individual control on their disposition at its moral centre. It has been argued that organs should be owned as property so that individuals can sell them, or transmit them to relatives so that relatives can claim payment from donation. To provoke thought on whether organs should be owned as private property like any other, the thesis proposes an inheritance regime for organs with family as default successor.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSoren Holm (Supervisor) & Margaret Brazier (Supervisor)


  • inheritance
  • payment
  • organ transplantation
  • gift
  • property
  • organ donation
  • body parts
  • motivation
  • reward
  • altruism
  • ownership

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