American ethicists assert that moral norm against killing is unnecessary

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University) and Franklin G. Miller (National Institutes of Health) have published a paper titled, “What makes killing wrong?”  Their conclusion is that killing is wrong because it causes total disability, and that the moral rule against killing is superfluous.  After asserting that current organ transplant practice involves taking vital organs from people who are still alive (as they understand that term) they suggest that more organs could be made available for transplant if the requirement for donor death were dropped and replaced with the criterion of total disability.  In the course of the paper they suggest that religious beliefs should not inform medical ethics “in any religiously diverse society,” which would appear to imply that medical professionals should be expected to adopt the views they propose.  The paper illustrates, at several points, how conflicts of conscience may arise during end-of-life decision making and organ transplantation.

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