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The right to life is an inalienable aspect of human existence and has been the core of numerous debates ranging from abortion, DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate), to the right to die (ex: euthanasia due to a severe decline in a person’s quality of life). One overlapping aspect in all these debates is the idea that an external party should not have the right to unilaterally end a person’s life either through inaction or through the implementation of policies that would allow a life to be taken away.
This is an important perspective to consider given its correlation to the ethics of the allocation of transplantation of organs. Transplant organs are a rare resource given the limited amount of organ donors per year. As a result, there are thousands of people on the transplant waiting list, many of whom may die before an organ is available. This is why cases like that of illegal immigrant Jessica Santillan are often highly criticized since the availability of an already scarce resource is being reduced by people who, at least from the perspective of various detractors and critics, have no right to them since they are not legal citizens.
Analysis of the Issue
Admittedly, those against making organ transplants available to illegal immigrants do have a point since organs are a limited resource, they should be allocated first and foremost to the citizens of the country that they originate from. However, the implementation of any policy that would support such actions would be in direct violation to a person’s right to life. As mentioned earlier, one of the core aspects of the various debates surrounding the right to life is the creation and implementation of policies that would allow life to be taken away.
Any policy that would prohibit donated organs from being given to illegal immigrants seeking medical assistance can be considered the same as preventing them from seeking the necessary treatment to save their life and, as such, is in direct violation of various moral and ethical standards. However, resolving this issue is not as straightforward as it would seem since, as mentioned earlier, those on the other side of the debate do have a valid point. Where should the moral and ethical “line” be drawn when it comes to limited resources and the sheer amount of people that are desperate for organs.
Article Choice and Position
Countries should look out for their citizens first an foremost and not the well-being of people who should not be entitled to any medical care at all. However, as explained by Meslin, Salmon and Eberi, the concept of citizenship should not exceed that of the fundamental social responsibility that we as human beings are entitled to give to one another. Under the perspective of Meslin et al., morality and ethics, which manifest from social responsibility are the key aspects of which the current debate on organ transplants for illegal immigrants should be based upon (Meslin, Salmon, Eberi 6). Issues such as taxation and illegal immigration do not carry the same moral weight as the inalienable right to life that all human beings possess.
Yes, organs are a much needed and rare resource, but as an evolved society whose actions are based on moral and ethical guidelines, should we start setting the precedent that ethics should not matter when it comes to the scarcity of particular resources? This is a slippery slope that could lead to societal decay in the future as the rights of people become increasingly subservient to the need for resource conservation. It is based on this that I am for the perspective of Meslin et al. that policies are not the answer to cases like that of Jessica Santillan. The problem with going down this route is that not only can health care reform be used as a proxy for immigration issues, it can also lead to instances where people implement restrictive policies out of some misbegotten perspective (Meslin et al. 16).
For example, would the controversy surrounding the current organ transplant debate based on the case of Jessica Santillan be as divisive as it is now if the family had come from Canada or if they were a wealthy family from the Middle East? (Meslin et al. 8). One of the reasons why so many people are up in arms over it is because of the prevalence of racism and classism within American society today. People viewed the case as illegal immigrants getting organs that should have gone to an American family instead of a girl looking for a way to stay alive. The problem is that people are focusing more on laws and policies rather than on basic human decency.
Meslin, Eric, Karen Salmon, and Jason Eberi. “Eligibility for Organ Transplantation to Foreign Nationals The Relationship Between Citizenship, Justice, and Philanthropy as Policy Criteria.” North Carolina Scholarship Online 1.1 (2006): 1- 19. Web.