Everyday Ethics

I recently had an interesting debate about health care with my brother, a doctor in the Navy. As debates between the two of us generally go, we circled around a number of topics before ending the call. One such topic ended with the shared opinion (a shared opinion is mighty rare when it comes to we two siblings) that we wished more people accepted, medically, that sometimes bad things just happened.

I thought of this conversation when reading this story about a soldier who died after receiving a transplant of cancerous lungs — the lungs of a heavy smoker.

Initially, I assumed the sad story was a tragic mix-up, a mistake. And as I said before, perhaps a case in which a bad thing just happened. However, as you read further into the story you see the hospital defends its’ use of smokers’ organs in transplants.

Their defense is that, if smokers were excluded from the donation process, the number of available organs would drop dramatically. Personally, every Brit I know is a smoker, so I can only assume this is true.

Still, is the risk worth it? I’m sure the many saved by a smoker’s organs would say yes. Plus, according to the hospital, this was a very rare case. So did the hospital act unethically? My inclination is to say yes, they did. Legitimate defense or no, surely a *very* heavy smoker should have been excluded from donating his organs — this was a man who apparently smoked up to 50 cigarettes a day!

What do you think? Should this be an accepted practice?
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