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Organ markets and harms: a reply to Dworkin, Radcliffe Richards and Walsh
  1. Simon Rippon
  1. Correspondence to Dr Simon Rippon, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Suite 8, Littlegate House, Oxford OX1 1PT, UK; simon.rippon{at}

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In my recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, I attacked the Laissez Choisir (LC) Argument in defence of letting individuals choose whether to sell kidneys or other organs as living donors, and I argued that such transactions should generally remain prohibited.1 The LC Argument arises as a response to a prohibitionist claim that I endorse: organ sales should be banned to protect potential poverty-stricken vendors, even if a free market could provide great benefits to potential organ recipients. The LC Argument says that this is misplaced paternalism, since banning the market only takes away from willing vendors what they must regard as their best option, thereby (allegedly) leaving them even worse off, at least as they see things. My refutation of the LC Argument pointed out, on the contrary, that giving some people the option to sell their organs may harm them in ways they would reasonably prefer not to be harmed—even though they would reasonably prefer to take the option once it is presented. The upshot is that many potentially willing organ vendors might themselves reasonably prefer prohibition. I argued that the harms of a live donor organ market to this group would in fact be significant and unavoidable, and that it would be morally impermissible to impose these harms. And I suggested that this argument for prohibition best explicates an inchoate but widely shared moral concern about the exploitative nature of live donor organ trading.

I thank Gerald Dworkin, Janet Radcliffe Richards and Adrian Walsh for their engaging and often insightful commentaries.2–4 I agree with a lot, but I will …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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