The ethics of organ donation continues to be an ongoing issue for public health. In the case study, a famous musician and recording artist receives a preferential treatment with regards to organ donation. This issue has been discussed before, as it appears that rich and famous people receive organs in a relatively short amount of time. There are several issues associated with this. There is most certainly a shortage of organs for donation. As a result of this shortage, many individuals die before they receive an organ. One important issue in organ donation is social justice. Social justice is considered one of the hallmark issues in public health ethics. According to one article, “justice is so central to the mission of public health that it has been described as the field’s core value” (Gostin & Powers, 2006, p. 1053).
In public health, social justice refers to how fairly health care is distributed. The issue of justice is one of the three issues discussed in the Belmont Report. According to the Belmont Report (1978), the issue of justice is clearly denied when a person is denied that which is rightly his. “An injustice occurs when some benefit to which a person is entitled is denied without good reason or when some burden is imposed unduly. Another way of conceiving the principle of justice is that equals ought to be treated equally” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1978). In the study presented, the person “Misty” was given a transplant ahead of five other individuals. The reason given by the ethics committee is that they “fear[ed] the media storm and negative publicity they would face and anticipat[ed] all of the praise they would receive” (Case Study). This is not a reason that justifies denying something to the individuals before her on the list.
One can argue that Misty provides services to the community that should place her above the others on the list. Two of the individuals were older individuals. One of the individuals was a teacher, one was an accountant and the last was a truck driver. Misty, because of her celebrity, is able to perform concerts for charities. Likely, because of her fame and celebrity, these concerts bring in large amounts of money for various charities. These charities include one for children with leukemia. Many may argue that she provides greater good for the world. This argument would use the issue of utilitarianism; utilitarianism believes that what achieves the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of individuals is the correct choice (Stanford University, 2009).
This is, of course, a tempting argument. However, it is an incorrect one. Teachers obviously provide a tremendous amount of good for society. Furthermore, a truck driver provides society with a useful service. There is not enough information about the older people to comment further; however, perhaps they volunteer tremendous amounts of their time and energies to various causes as well. The reality is that it is almost impossible to determine who benefits society the most. One of the reasons for this is because it depends upon individual beliefs about what society needs. To a parent with a child who has leukemia, it would be Misty. However, to a parent who had a child who loved a teacher who died, it would have been this teacher.
There is also a reason for these organ transplant lists. They have been designed to ensure that the greatest amount of individuals survive. This is also part of utilitarianism. The lists were organized to ensure that the greatest good would develop from a scarce resource (Gift of Life Donor Program, n.d.). Overall, there were multiple violations to medical and public health ethics in this case study. While some may make arguments in favor of how it was done, there are too many legitimate arguments against allowing Misty to jump the list.