Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 33–44 | Cite as

Should a criminal receive a heart transplant? Medical Justice vs. Societal Justice

  • Lawrence J. Schneiderman
  • Nancy S. Jecker


Should the nation provide expensive care and scarce organs to convicted felons? We distinguish between two fields of justice: Medical Justice and Societal Justice. Although there is general acceptance within the medical profession that physicians may distribute limited treatments based solely on potential medical benefits without regard to nonmedical factors, that does not mean that society cannot impose limits based on societal factors. If a society considers the convicted felon to be a full member, then that person would be entitled to at least a “decent minimum” level of care — which might include access to scarce life-saving organs. However, if criminals forfeit their entitlement to the same level of medical care afforded to all members of society, they still would be entitled to a kind of “rudimentary decent minimum” granted to all persons on simple humanitarian grounds. Almost certainly this entitlement would not include access to organ transplants.

Key words

allocation of scarce resources candidate selection convicted criminals justice organ transplants 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence J. Schneiderman
    • 1
  • Nancy S. Jecker
    • 2
  1. 1.Departments of Family and Preventive Medicine and MedicineUniversity of California, San Diego, School of MedicineLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical History and EthicsUniversity of Washington, School of MedicineSeattleUSA

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