Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Raymond Martin




organs, medicine, autonomy, debate, free market


One of the most hotly debated issues in contemporary applied and practical philosophy is whether individuals should be permitted to sell their organs on the free market. This issue raises complex and controversial questions about the proper scope of personal liberty, free market solutions to moral problems, ethics, and societal well-being. Over the past decade, a number of philosophers have argued that a free market solution to the organ shortage problem is both morally acceptable and likely to be effective. These arguments maintain that the only way to respect an individual’s rights is to give him complete control over his body, including his organs. From this perspective, paternalistic laws and policies that prohibit an organ market are wholly illegitimate, since they place unjustified restrictions upon personal freedom. Critics argue that personal autonomy is not truly respected in a free market system. Some cite a phenomenon which involves the organ seller’s will be “irreconcilably conflicted” in regards to selling their organs. If this is so, no choice to sell one’s organs could truly be autonomous. Others argue that an organ market would violate certain egalitarian principles of distributive justice. Does one’s body, including one’s internal organs, hold some kind of “higher” moral value which entails that it is always immoral to sell it to the highest bidder? The general goal of this project is to understand and critically evaluate the various positions that have been articulated in this debate. While there are far too many particulars of this debate to cover everything, in the end, I will offer and defend my own view that the market in human organs is morally and ethically permissible and desirable.