Libertarian warning: I’m about to advocate a position that comes from my libertarian leanings, and that some people are going to find, if not offensive, pretty peculiar. I’m going to ask you to hear me out, to not adopt a knee-jerk reaction (which I find to be typical of people on all sides of the political spectrum, true of liberals, sure, but truer of conservatives than most of them would admit it to be), but rather, to consider rationally and reasonably a concept that perhaps you’ve dismissed (if you’ve ever even thought about in the first place). Knee-jerk reactions are just so common. When I advocate that the war on drugs is unwinnable, that we’ve had forty years of experience at finding out what doesn’t work, that we continue to throw megamillions of dollars, and a gazillion man-hours of time, into a hopeless situation, that we are overcrowding our prisons with non-violent criminals, and actually finding people dying, not just from taking drugs but from our efforts to keep people from taking them, I fear that some people take a knee-jerk pose, when in fact, a good, rational debate over the best approach to dealing with the scourge of drug use, would do us all good as Americans.

Same with this issue. So hang on.

I want to submit that innocent people are dying needlessly in America because we have a hangup over something, labeling it “immoral” without any Scriptural sanction to do so, and that if we’d get past this hangup, everybody would win. Everybody.

Flesh Trade

Here’s the question: In a world where people are dying needlessly waiting on transplant organs, whence cometh our “moral” objections to allowing a person to sell an organ? Let me break this down several different ways. First, exactly what about my proposal would be immoral? Several years ago, a lady in my church donated her kidney to her father, prolonging his life by a couple years. We (rightly!) viewed her act as selfless, even heroic. Donating an organ is something we deem noble.

All right, then, if it’s OK to do it for free, why is it not OK to do it for money? “Ah, but that’s terrible, to make money off the gift of life”. I’m sorry, but please, spare me. In an organ donation situation, everybody profits. The person receiving the organ gets a new lease on life. The doctors make out like bandits financially, as does the hospital, the drug companies, the nurses, the support staff…need I go on? Oh, there is exactly one person who gets no benefit (except warm feelings of satisfaction) in this arrangement: the person donating the organ. Hello! What is wrong with this picture? We reward everyone in some fashion except for the person giving up the organ? And we call that the “moral” thing to do?

What about the tragic situation of a young death, say by auto accident. A poor family is approached about organ donation–but they can’t get any remuneration; they have to agree to the deal out of the goodness of their hearts. But the rich doctor gets richer, etc. No, getting money for the organs wouldn’t bring back their loved one, but it might significantly help out the young widow and help provide for the kids. And yet we prohibit this, currently, for reasons that utterly escape me.

Second, tell the dying person that there’s no kidney match, and watch the patient die, when the patient and her family would gladly purchase a kidney from a person motivated by financial gain. Who cares what the motivation is? A patient who would have died now lives. And again, nothing different is done procedurally; a matching kidney is a matching kidney; the only difference is that it was purchased rather than received as a gift. Where’s the problem in this scenario?

So to recap: we now have a situation where there is a dearth of good organs, and people die. We have the solution within our grasp: allow people to sell organs. If we made this change, we’d have a surplus of potential life-saving organs. And yet because of some hard-to-understand squeamishness, we allow people to die.

Is it beginning to sound to you like what we are currently doing might be the “immoral” thing?

31 responses »

  1. Sherry says:

    Byron:

    Wow, what a conversation you’ve sparked at our house!

    First, it has been suggested that you are justifying the trade of human flesh with the “bandwagon” argument….everyone else profits so I should too.

    Second, who would pay for the organ? If the hospital purchases it, will they then turn around and sell it at a profit to the organ recipient?

    Third, it was pointed out that the organ (life) was free to the original owner…not sure exactly how that pertains, but it was a point made. Typically at our house if something comes to us for free we pass it on when it has lost it’s usefullness to us for free.

    As for moral arguments, it was pointed out that to remove your body parts is self-injury…but then again we do see it as “OK” to do it for free….

    Another thing, we both donate AND sell our blood. I have friends who in dire circumstances have sold thier blood plasma on a regular basis. People also sell thier hair for wigs. So to some extent we already are selling ourselves.

    So frankly, we don’t have an answer, but it’s been really interesting to discuss it. We HAVE gone from “absolutely NOT!” to “huh….”

  2. Byron says:

    Serious conversation around the dinner table…what a concept!

    OK, as to the “bandwagon” argument: yes and no. The fact that everyone else is profiting doesn’t justify something that on its face is immoral (“but everybody else is doing it!”), but there’s nothing wrong with the “bandwagon” if the act itself isn’t inherently wrong; it’d be the equivalent of “everybody else is selling on eBay!” To which I’d say, “let me find my junk, that I might join them!” Further, a key point is that the organ “donor” (“seller”) is the one who is “injured” in the deal, suffering (as it stands now) a net loss. Everybody else comes out ahead; why not the person who is currently being asked to suffer?

    To the second point, that’s also a good question, but I don’t really care, to be honest. If we changed the law, the law of supply-and-demand would take over, and in a relatively unfettered market, the price of an individual organ would come down, because there’d be a whole lot more people (both the living and the families of the deceased) who’d be willing to donate. Everybody would win, because there’d be more organs out there (right now, the main losers are the ones who die waiting for transplants; those days would be over).

    As to the third point, it doesn’t pertain. Thanks for your generosity; that’s great, and we do the same–to a point. You didn’t give away your house; you sold it. There are undoubtedly other items you wouldn’t give away, but hope to recoup something for them. Ever have a yard sale? Now, extend that to a very valuable commodity, such as an organ which would save an individual’s life.

    As I stated in the piece, the “self-injury” idea simply doesn’t wash. We regard as heroes those who donate for free, so there is nothing inherently wrong in our eyes in “mutilating” our bodies to donate. And the wig and blood arguments are spot-on.

    Keep thinking. And encourage others to join the conversation, by all means!

  3. Dave says:

    Allowing people to sell organs would save thousands of lives every year. Unfortunately, there is no reason to think Congress will legalize this in the foreseeable future. In a world where buying and selling organs is illegal, what can be done to increase the supply of organs?

    Fortunately, there is an already-legal way to put a big dent in the organ shortage — allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. The United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative approval is required.

    Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don’t have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at http://www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

  4. Byron says:

    Dave,

    I just joined! Absent Congress coming to its senses on this issue, LifeSharers is an exceptional idea. I will be an advocate. Readers, let’s all join! Thanks for the tip, and for alerting myself and our readers to this great concept!

    Byron

  5. Don says:

    I’m joining the debate my friend. I’ve posted my response to a Bioethics Debate over at The Salty Peanut Gallery. Definitely not a knee-jerk reaction. I look forward to your response.

  6. Byron says:

    Here is what I posted over at Don’s site, he having attempted to hijack the discussion…love ya, man! Head on over and read his words and then come back here and talk about ’em.

    Hey, the problem with having the debate here is that I lose home court advantage! 🙂

    You said, “Just because you own something doesn’t give you the right to transfer power or ownership of it to anyone else in any way that you please.” But I would contend that at least that reasoning should also prohibit the voluntary giving away of organs. The only difference, remember, is money.

    Now, as to the “devaluing” argument, I don’t think it’s without merit, but at the same time, we aren’t making this argument in a vacuum. The current state of affairs is that many people are losing their lives needlessly, because there are not enough organs. My solution would immediately remedy that (more on that below), and it could be argued that human life is being “devalued” by needlessly allowing thousands a year to die when there is an easy solution. Do we more honor the sanctity of life by insisting on “altruistic” motives in organ donation, thereby allowing thousands to die needlessly, or do we more honor the sanctity of life by preserving as many lives as possible by dramatically increasing the supply of needed organs? I think that that is a very fair question.

    You then quote II Corinthians 6 and say, “To say that we as believers are free to sell that which does not belong to us is further problematic.” Why is it any less problematic to give away what doesn’t belong to us? The effect is exactly the same: I’m down an organ, and a needy person is up one, one that sustains his/her life. By this reasoning (if not by others), you’ve got to condemn my church member’s giving away of her kidney to her dad, because her kidney didn’t “belong” to her!

    Further, you are at this point making a better case (though I disagree with it) for how Christians ought to view the issue than you are how society ought to deal with it. Granting that we ought to contend for the enactment of just laws, it still strikes me that at the very least, your arguments shouldn’t have the force of civil law, but rather moral suasion (look it up). 🙂

    Your next line of reasoning just makes no sense to me, honestly, in part because you act as though there is no crisis currently. Who will purchase organs? Everybody! The point is that there will be enough to go around if we stop insisting on altruism. Poor people are (theoretically) dying anyway, right? Driving the cost up? C’mon…I’d argue that the cost could conceivably come down, and here’s how: first, the price of organs wouldn’t be that terribly great if there was a surplus of them; that’s the law of supply and demand; the other costs of surgery would dwarf the price paid for an individual organ, likely. Second, is it possible that if there were a greatly increased number of transplants, we’d see economies of scale kick in and the “price/per” would go down? This happens in other arenas; why not here? The point is that having more organs available, enough to meet the demand, helps everybody, rich and poor alike. Talk of the “exploitation of the poor” will fall on the deaf ears of poor people who watch their loved ones die because there are no organs; I can only imagine that every one of those people would love to be so exploited, if it meant the difference between life and death! I’m sure I would!

    Finally, you said, “By allowing family members to be compensated for their deceased relative’s organs, we are opening up a Pandora’s of possible abuses. It’s already difficult enough when physicians must give advice regarding patients on life support who are possible organ donors. Now add the potential of financial gain into the mix and the pressure placed on those charged with these kinds of decisions increases. A greater temptation now exists to withhold medical treatment for profit. In addition to whatever life insurance they may receive, the Michael Schiavo’s of this world are now entitled to even greater compensation. Is that really what we want?”

    Ah, the dread “slippery slope” argument. And it is certainly not without a fair measure of validity, a cautionary tale with which I have some sympathies. But here’s my argument: people are dying. Needlessly. I’ve long said that the important thing to do, in such cases where slippery slope was a valid concern, is to draw the line in the right place. There are undoubtedly all sorts of issues where the slippery slope could apply, but we cannot worry about every conceivable “what if” and fail to do the right thing. My answer would be to put legal safeguards in place to attempt, as best we can, to address the potential situations. As you know, Don, I was a regular poster supporting Terri’s right to life, and will always believe that Michael Schiavo is a scum-of-the-earth type (sleeping around while trying to look out for Terri’s “best interests”…right!), that her life was taken in a case of state-approved murder. I would support tougher legislation to keep this from happening; I believe that allowing a person to starve to death amounts to murder. But that doesn’t stop my support, not only for the right of individuals to sell their organs, but of strict guidelines to oversee the practice, in order to do the best job we can of mitigating the slippery slope.

    I honor your attempt to defend your position, but don’t think that it passes muster sufficiently to prove that the issue is a moral/Scriptural one.

  7. sherry says:

    Along the “what if’s” brought up at our house:

    What’s to prevent a parent from selling thier CHILD’s organs?

    Slippery slopes are very, very slippery.

  8. Ed Martin says:

    “But that doesn’t stop my support, not only for the right of individuals to sell their organs, but of strict guidelines to oversee the practice, in order to do the best job we can of mitigating the slippery slope.”

    Byron,

    And you of all people think OUR government can put Strict Guidelines in place on this?

  9. Byron says:

    Our government, if it’s proven anything, has proven that it has no problem passing laws, guys; that seems to be the one thing our government is pretty good at, restricting liberty (that’s what it’s doing now, quite effectively, in preventing remuneration for organs, and people are dying because of it). What’s to stop a parent is a law preventing the organs of minors to be donated except, say, in the event of sudden death or some terminal illness, etc.

  10. Don says:

    Byron,

    I’ve cited some of your remarks followed by my response.

    BYRON: You said, “Just because you own something doesn’t give you the right to transfer power or ownership of it to anyone else in any way that you please.” But I would contend that at least that reasoning should also prohibit the voluntary giving away of organs. The only difference, remember, is money.

    RESPONSE: The key phrase here is “in any way that you please”. In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Certainly we can all agree that an organ donation could be included as a biblical act of love. However, add in monetary compensation and it is no longer an act of love but an act of personal gain. You say it’s the ONLY difference, but to me that’s a pretty big difference. The real difference is motive.

    BYRON: Do we more honor the sanctity of life by insisting on “altruistic” motives in organ donation, thereby allowing thousands to die needlessly, or do we more honor the sanctity of life by preserving as many lives as possible by dramatically increasing the supply of needed organs?

    RESPONSE: Are we saying then that the end justifies the means? This may not sound very intellectual, but it’s never right to do wrong to do right. To say “THIS devalues human life, but it’s okay because THAT does it even more,” is really not much of an argument.

    BYRON: Further, you are at this point making a better case (though I disagree with it) for how Christians ought to view the issue than you are how society ought to deal with it. Granting that we ought to contend for the enactment of just laws, it still strikes me that at the very least, your arguments shouldn’t have the force of civil law, but rather moral suasion (look it up).

    RESPONSE: Byron, my friend, I am attempting to address this from the perspective of a Christian world view. Are we saying then that there are certain moral truths that are only appropriate for believers, but are not applicable to nonbelievers? If that’s the case then there aren’t really any moral absolutes are there? My point is that from a purely biblical perspective our bodies are not our own to do with whatever we please. So the here’s the real question. Is God really honored by mutilating our bodies for profit?

    BYRON: Your next line of reasoning just makes no sense to me, honestly, in part because you act as though there is no crisis currently. Who will purchase organs? Everybody! The point is that there will be enough to go around if we stop insisting on altruism. Poor people are (theoretically) dying anyway, right? Driving the cost up? C’mon…I’d argue that the cost could conceivably come down…

    RESPONSE: On this we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I simply do not agree with your conclusions. First, you base your assumption on the notion that suddenly the market will be flooded with enough organs to save the world. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying that for one minute. I believe things will be as it has always been. Only the very most desperate are the ones who will be selling their organs. These organs will not be cheap particularly if there’s any kind of middle man involved, so that the end result will be additional medical costs. Sure more lives may be saved, but it won’t be the lives of poor people as you have surmised.

    BYRON: Ah, the dread “slippery slope” argument. My answer would be to put legal safeguards in place to attempt, as best we can, to address the potential situations.

    RESPONSE: You concur then that allowing organ sales creates a greater temptation to withhold medical treatment for profit. So it seems that on at least one point we agree even if we disagree on the solution.
    *******************************************************************************************************************
    Byron, you say that I haven’t passed muster sufficiently to prove that the issue is a moral/Scriptural one. My friend, I would hope that we would try and view everything in this life from a moral/scriptural perspective. That’s part of having a Christian world view.

  11. Byron says:

    For the sake of clarity, since Don’s response BELOW calls my remarks hard to follow, I am retroactively reformatting this comment; perhaps that will be helpful. Or not. I report, you decide.

    Ah, now back to our intriguing and challenging little tete a tete.

    Don wrote,
    In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Certainly we can all agree that an organ donation could be included as a biblical act of love. However, add in monetary compensation and it is no longer an act of love but an act of personal gain. You say it’s the ONLY difference, but to me that’s a pretty big difference. The real difference is motive.

    I’m going to take you up on your challenges. First, to the idea that one’s motive effectively changes completely when money is introduced. I beg to differ, although I see your point. We each earn a living by means of the promotion of the gospel. We each could choose to do it for free–as many people do, and as I would myself were I “independently wealthy.” Can we not be motivated by love and receive a paycheck? I’m not saying that most would; I would just suggest that the introduction of a monetary motive would not, as you seem to suggest, preclude love as a motive by definition.

    But the bigger issue is that we’re talking, remember, about an issue of legality. One’s motives shouldn’t make a lot of difference when it comes to what should be legal or not. It’s legal to make money, regardless of the motive (some means of making money are illegal, but I’m not aware of any illegal motives).

    Don wrote,
    Are we saying then that the end justifies the means? This may not sound very intellectual, but it’s never right to do wrong to do right. To say “THIS devalues human life, but it’s okay because THAT does it even more,” is really not much of an argument.

    No, I’d agree with you wholeheartedly: the end does not justify the means. But that presupposes that the means itself is inherently unjustifiable, and that it only becomes justifiable if it serves a justifiable end. If you can prove to me that the act of selling a kidney is inherently immoral, then no amount of good that is done thereby will cause me to support it. I am unconvinced that this is the case.

    Further, when we are not talking about moral issues, we can, do, and should consider the “end” sought when considering, not the morality, but the appropriateness of a given action. Hang with me here. There is nothing inherently wrong with driving on the left-hand side of the road, or driving one’s car through an intersection under a light that is red. These things are illegal (and rightly so!) because we have an end in mind: the protection of life and the orderly flow of traffic. We are not bound to drive on a particular side of the road in order to be moral, and we’re not even bound to have traffic laws, but the “ends” mentioned above render those and other laws reasonable. The “ends” of protecting life and having orderly traffic justify the “means” of traffic laws, even if those traffic laws themselves have no particular moral component in and of themselves. So the “situation ethics” argument stands or falls upon the morality of the “means”, and in this case, we’re back to the original question: on what solid, clear grounds are the means immoral?

    Don wrote,
    I am attempting to address this from the perspective of a Christian world view. Are we saying then that there are certain moral truths that are only appropriate for believers, but are not applicable to nonbelievers? If that’s the case then there aren’t really any moral absolutes are there? My point is that from a purely biblical perspective our bodies are not our own to do with whatever we please. So the here’s the real question. Is God really honored by mutilating our bodies for profit?

    As to the Christian worldview answer, I give ground to no one on the importance of believers developing a Christ-centered worldview. But you’re not talking about a Christian worldview issue; you’re going beyond a Christian worldview to the legal imposition of that worldview upon others. I would argue that there are certain cases, governed by Scripturally-derived principles, when we are right to seek such imposition–but that such cases are relatively rare, and again, governed by certain rules.

    As Christ-followers, we are called to a higher standard of living in every area. It does not follow that we ought to seek to make every one of those areas legally binding upon non-believers (that’d truly be a theocracy). For instance, a Christian worldview demands that believers refrain from lying, envy, greed, unwholesome talk, lust…you get the picture and the laundry list. It does not follow, though, that we believe every lie told ought to be under sanction of law (“You’ll have to come with us, Mr. Black; when Mrs. Black asked you, ‘does this dress make me look fat’, your answer did not conform to Section 8, Paragraph E, Point 19 of the Virginia Penal Code regarding “speaking the truth in love”.). Again, I’d suggest that there are some (relatively limited) circumstances when a Christian worldview compels us to seek the enactment of legal sanction. This situation does not rise to that standard (which I can enumerate in another post, if you’re interested).

    I then argue that with market forces taking over, the cost of organs will go down, and economies of scale could well kick in and drive the entire cost of transplants down from current levels. Don wrote,
    On this we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I simply do not agree with your conclusions. First, you base your assumption on the notion that suddenly the market will be flooded with enough organs to save the world. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying that for one minute. I believe things will be as it has always been. Only the very most desperate are the ones who will be selling their organs. These organs will not be cheap particularly if there’s any kind of middle man involved, so that the end result will be additional medical costs. Sure more lives may be saved, but it won’t be the lives of poor people as you have surmised.

    We’ll agree to disagree. Agreeably! 🙂

    Don wrote, regarding the “slippery slope” argument,
    You concur then that allowing organ sales creates a greater temptation to withhold medical treatment for profit. So it seems that on at least one point we agree even if we disagree on the solution.

    Yes, we do concur on the final point. I do think that we’d have to craft appropriate legal safeguards. I do fear the slippery slope; that’s a valid concern.

    Finally, Don wrote,
    Byron, you say that I haven’t passed muster sufficiently to prove that the issue is a moral/Scriptural one. My friend, I would hope that we would try and view everything in this life from a moral/scriptural perspective. That’s part of having a Christian world view.

    To your final point, as I said earlier, I couldn’t agree more. We must view everything from the perspective of Scripture. I am convinced that I am, but as always, I stand open to clear evidence otherwise.

    Now to a challenge: in the case of organ donation, you are saying that the addition of one element–the introduction of financial remuneration–takes a moral, dare we say “heroic”, act, and turns it into an immoral one. Here’s the question: can you think of any parallel situation, where the introduction of money moves an action from clearly moral to clearly immoral? Off the top of my head, I cannot, though by asking I allow for the possibility. Please, to any reader, don’t say “prostitution” and embarrass yourself, because that’s clearly not the case (and is easily proven). OK, ball’s in your court, readers!

  12. Don says:

    In all honesty I’m having difficulty following much of what you have written here. For one thing some of your arguments do not accurately reflecting the points I’ve made and are convoluting the issues well beyond my original intent. Rather than try and address each of your responses let me see if I can put this in a nutshell.

    I maintain that putting a price tag on human body parts serves to devalue people as property and infringes upon the sanctity of human life. Further, selling organs leads to exploitation of the poor since only the most desperate will be the ones selling their organs and only those who are wealthy enough to afford it will be buying them. Obviously you do not agree, but I stand by my original premise that these objections have their basis in scripture.

    As to your question, “Can you think of any parallel situation, where the introduction of money moves an action from clearly moral to clearly immoral?” As a matter of fact I can. It’s called SLAVERY. I can send my son over to your house to voluntarily help you with your chores. That’s an act of kindness. Or you can purchase him for a sum of money and then he becomes your property. That’s an act of immorality. As far as I’m concerned harvesting body parts for money is no different.

  13. Don says:

    Just thought of another one. BRIBERY

  14. Ed Martin says:

    Yes Byron Don and I do agree on all points he has so eloquently,factually,and Scripturally stated in his replies.

  15. Byron says:

    Don,

    I’m not at all trying to convolute the points, just answer them. What do you find hard to follow? Maybe I should have used the “Don” and “Response” format you did, to better distinguish points. Maybe I can “reformat” in order to make my arguments more clear; that’s the magic of “EDIT”. I can do that on my blog; obviously, on yours, I cannot (the downside of “double posting”, I suppose).

    Your first example, slavery, doesn’t work (although, obviously, slavery is wrong). You can send your son over to work at my house, and he can voluntarily help me with my chores. Or you can send him over, he can help me, and I can pay him. That’s not slavery, and it happens all the time. For slavery to work as an parallel example, the only difference in the situation would be paying or not paying; ex., I forcibly detain a person, make him work for me, and don’t pay him a dime, versus forcible detention with pay.

    Let me chew on the bribery thing and I’ll get back with you.

  16. Don says:

    Byron,

    Somehow I knew you were going to say that. Of course it doesn’t work if you are going to misrepresent my example. But that’s no the scenario I posed. But you keep chewing. As for the rest I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve tried as succinctly as I know how to sum up my position for you and rather than confuse the issue any further I think at this point we may just need to agree to disagree.

  17. Byron says:

    How does that misrepresent your example? Rest assured that if I misrepresented it, it wasn’t on purpose, but I don’t think that as you stated it, it met my criteria. I’ll happily stand corrected, ’cause I’m looking for one good example (bribery, by the way, I’ll touch on later, but I don’t think it meets the criteria either, although I’m not sure of that, thus I wait to post).

  18. Byron says:

    Don,

    I think I just got how you thought I misrepresented, so let me demonstrate a different way I don’t believe your example holds. The parallel would have to be, not between your sending your son over to help, but your permanently assigning me custody for the purpose of having him as my slave (against his will, assumedly), and my purchasing him from you for the same purpose. Either way, your son is my slave; in the first case, no money is exchanged; in the second case it is. Both are immoral; the money exchanged makes no difference (except perhaps a little in degree).

    Got to draw precise parallels in order to satisfy the terms on the question.

    More on bribery still to come.

  19. Don says:

    Byron,

    Again, I’m not surprised, but here’s two more examples for you to chew on.

    My wife works in a ladies clothing store at the mall. As an employee of that story she is permitted to buy merchandise from that store as gifts for friends and family. The moment she receives so much as a dime in compensation from one of her intended benefactors, however, that’s grounds for dismissal. Why? Because it’s unethical.

    Or how about this. We’ve all seen people who go out in their four-wheel drives on snowy days to pull people from the ditch. If they do it out of the goodness of their hearts we call them a good Samaritan. But if they charge you $50 for their trouble we would say that they are capitalizing on the misfortunes of others.

    I’m sure neither of these examples will pass muster either, since the intent of the hypothetical is to have no precise parallel, but try to be open minded.

  20. Byron says:

    Don,

    I’m not sure what you’re “not surprised” at; you’ll have to explain, because I did demonstrate that I’m looking (honestly) for a true apples-to-apples situation (which yours clearly wasn’t, you’d agree, I assume, or am I missing something yet?). And what do you mean, “the intent of the hypothetical is to have no precise parallel?” The intent of the hypothetical is to honestly ask if there is a truly parallel situation where the exchange of money–as the only factor–changes an otherwise ethical act into an immoral one. I’m really open to considering that possibility, so if it’s cynicism I read into your words, I assure you that it is unwarranted, and I’m not sure why you’d even go there. I’ll get to your next hypotheticals after I mull them a bit, but do reconsider the cynicism, if that’s indeed what I’m reading, since I’m honestly trying to sort this through in an open and honest manner, and have a respectful dialogue with anybody/everybody about an admittedly touchy subject.

    And anybody else wants to jump in, have at it!

  21. Don says:

    Cynicism? Me?

    Seriously, Byron, what is truly parallel about anything? Your getting so caught up in semantics that you’re completely missing the point. If you’ll recall, the point I originally made was that by adding monetary compensation to an act of love or kindness you change it into an act of personal gain. That seems to me to be pretty self-evident and I think I’ve provided four pretty straightforward examples that are considered also to be immoral. Obviously you disagree with my premise. I understand. So it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve dismissed them as not being applicable. I’m not trying to be cynical, (even though my lips are moving) I’m just being realistic.

  22. Byron says:

    Au contraire, mi amigo! I don’t think that parallels are that hard to draw at all. I took your attempted parallel and drew two different ones from it, each valid but neither proving your point. I haven’t yet discounted any of the other three that you drew.

    I do recall the point you made about adding monetary compensation; I also recall that you had nothing to say to my rejoinder regarding ministry, the fact that you and I both are paid to do it, and the fact that I don’t consider that fact to change ministry into an act of personal gain as opposed to love. What think ye in that regard?

    You have provided three examples that you consider to prove something immoral, because that first one is clearly no parallel to the circumstance at hand. As I said, I’ll consider the other three soon.

  23. Byron says:

    At first blush, I’m more taken with your wife’s mall store parallel than I am the others, so let me ask, just to clarify: she buys the stuff at a reduced rate, correct? And that’s kosher with the store? Would the store allow her to resell at no profit (i.e., I give her the $ in advance, say, and she buys it for me)? Might make a difference in the parallel. Still thinking.

  24. Don says:

    No on all counts. She can’t receive a dime. Profit or no profit it’s still the same.

  25. Don says:

    To your rejoinder regarding ministry, “the fact that you and I both are paid to do it, and the fact that I don’t consider that fact to change ministry into an act of personal gain as opposed to love. What think ye in that regard?”

    Actually, I didn’t respond to it initially because I didn’t think it was germane. Making a buck and earning a living are two entirely different things. The biblical responsibility of the church to care for the physical wellbeing of its ministers can hardly be compared to the exploitation of society’s most desperate. I just didn’t think it applied.

  26. Byron says:

    The only point I intended to make in asking the question is that you seemed to suggest that receiving payment for doing something rendered it impossible to be motivated by love. What motivates you as you minister? I know, and so do you: love! And yet you receive a paycheck for doing it. Both are true: you minister out of love, and you receive remuneration for it. Getting paid doesn’t ruin the motive; that’s my only point in raising that issue.

    But it’s really a side point, so I’ll leave that one. On to your parallels in the next post.

  27. Byron says:

    You’re not going to like what I do to your parallels, but they did cause me to think awhile, and in fact, I’m still formulating my response to “bribery”, but as to the others:

    What Kim would be doing, were she to purchase something and resell it, profit or no, is not immoral in and of itself, because people do that all the time. What makes it wrong in her case is the fact that she thereby violates store policy; that’s the transgression. Here’s the parallel: she purchases an item from a store for which she does not work, and then gives it away. Great! She purchases an item from a store for which she does not work, and then charges for it. Great! It’s only her status as an employee that changes that, not the fact that money is charged.

    Now, to the guy pulling us out of the ditch: that parallel doesn’t work either, because it’s not immoral or wrong for him to charge us, but rather something society has deemed “uncouth” or what-have-you. Here’s my point: people capitalize financially on the misfortunes of others all the time, and we think nothing of it. The hospital makes money when we are sick. The mechanic makes money when my brakes give out. We could name a thousand services that make money off the fact that we have needs, sometimes misfortunes, etc.

    Fast-forward to the Good Samaritan: societally, we’ve come to expect that neighbors do those kinds of things when we’re stuck in ditches; I’m glad I live in that kind of society. When someone charges, we think he’s uncouth or rude or what have you, but really, he’s just doing what the mechanic does: making money off our misfortune. I’m not taking up for the clod, because most of us help our neighbors for free, but the clod is providing a very needed service, and while I’d think him a jerk, he’s not doing anything wrong, per se; he’s just engaging in a business transaction. Rude? Yep. Immoral because he charges? No.

    Bribery next! But let me reiterate something as together we chase a modest rabbit trail: the lack of a fitting parallel doesn’t mean I’m right; it’s just an interesting challenge that it’s difficult to find a true parallel to this case, and makes me wonder why we single it out here. After all, people do get paid for donating plasma, and hair for wigs. Granted, an organ from a living person is a bigger deal, but people can easily live with one kidney, so is the wrongness of this act because it’s on a larger scale than plasma?

    I again maintain that I understand there are issues that are very valid concerns; I just think that this is a discussion worth having in a world where people are dying needlessly.

  28. Byron says:

    And for goodness’ sakes, if you’re reading, sign up for LifeSharers! Click on my left sidebar button.

  29. Byron says:

    Wikipedia defines “bribery” this way:

    Bribery, a form of pecuniary corruption, is an act usually implying money or gift given that alters the behaviour of the recipient in ways not consistent with the duties of that person or in breach of law. Bribery constitutes a crime and is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty.

    Of course, bribery is wrong, but I don’t think it’s a parallel either, because if a person alters his behaviour (dig the Brit spelling!) in ways not consistent with his duties or in breach of the law, that’s wrong, whether he receives payment for it or not. The money offered in such a bribe is, certainly, the agent of change, but perverting justice is always wrong, not something that changes from right to wrong by virtue of the introduction of money.

    Those are good challenges, Don, but I’m still wondering if there’s a true parallel where a given action changes from right to wrong solely because money changes hands.

  30. Don says:

    As you said, Byron, this is a rabbit trail. Again, I never suggested that a given action changes from right to wrong solely because money changes hands.

  31. Byron says:

    OK, I misunderstood. It might be interesting to find an example, though. Any other readers?

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