The Moral Claims of the Dead

T. M. Wilkinson

in Ethics and the Acquisition of Organs

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199607860
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731747 | DOI:

Series: Issues in Biomedical Ethics

The Moral Claims of the Dead

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For what reason and to what extent should the retrieval of organs from people's dead bodies be governed by what they wanted while alive? This chapter argues that the idea of personal sovereignty described in chapter 2 includes a right to control what happens to one's body after death. This chapter elaborates and qualifies posthumous personal sovereignty. It then contrasts personal sovereignty with other attempts to justify posthumous rights, via bodily integrity, religious freedom, honouring bequests, and respecting the sensibilities of the living. The chapter rejects several objections. One is that a posthumous wish involves caring earlier about a later event, which matters no more than caring later about an earlier event. Another relies on a choice theory of right, and says that, as the dead cannot waive rights, they cannot have rights. The third claims that people cannot have posthumous rights because they do not suffer physical harm or bad experiences after death.

Keywords: posthumous personal sovereignty; posthoumous rights; choice theory of right

Chapter.  11157 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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