Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 91–99

Narrative responsibility and moral dilemma: A case study of a family’s decision about a brain-dead daughter



A brain death case is presented and reinterpreted using the narrative approach. In the case, two Japanese parents face a dilemma about whether to respect their daughter’s desire to donate organs even though, for them, it would mean literally killing their daughter. We argue that the ethical dilemma occurred because the parents were confronted with two conflicting narratives to which they felt a “narrative responsibility,” namely, the responsibility that drives us to tell, retell, and coauthor the (often unfinished) narratives of loved ones. We suggest that moral dilemmas arise not only from conflicts between moral justifications but also from conflicts between narratives and human relationships.


Brain death in Japan Organ donation Narrative ethics Moral dilemma Narrative dilemma Narrative responsibility 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Community-based Medicine and Primary CareRyukyu University Hospital, University of the RyukyusNishiharaJapan
  2. 2.Osaka Prefecture UniversityOsakaJapan

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