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In defending what he calls ‘full-blooded Epicureanism’, James Stacey Taylor argues that the dead cannot be harmed or wronged.1 This has implications for a range of bioethical issues pertaining to death, including posthumous organ procurement. Taylor claims that respecting the autonomy of persons requires that their desires regarding the treatment of their postmortem bodies be given due consideration while these persons are alive. It is not obvious what this means in practical terms, though Taylor says that respect for autonomy requires that these wishes be recorded with the intention that they be followed. Yet if respect for autonomy only applies to the wishes of premortem persons, and if there are no posthumous harms or wrongs, then it is not clear why it would matter morally whether one's wishes about what to do with one's organs were fulfilled or thwarted after one's death.
Most of us have an interest in what happens to our bodies not just during our lives but also after our deaths. Personal sovereignty and autonomy give persons a right to control what happens to their bodies, and since the body …
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.