Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 21–31 | Cite as

Reconsidering Kantian arguments against organ selling

  • Zümrüt Alpinar-Şencan
Scientific Contribution


Referring to Kant’s arguments addressing the moral relationship between our bodies and ourselves is quite common in contemporary debate about organ selling, although he does not provide us with any specific arguments related to this debate. It is widely argued that the most promising way to show the moral impermissibility of organ selling is to mount an argument on Kantian grounds. This paper asks whether it is possible to argue coherently against organ selling in a Kantian framework. It will be shown that by mounting the argument on Kantian grounds no compelling argument can be given against sale of organs, either because the arguments apply to donation of organs, too, or the arguments are not convincing for other independent reasons. In the first section, it will be argued that donation and selling are not distinguishable in a Kantian framework, since the concern about commodification of the body and its parts shall be raised by both actions. In the second section, some contemporary accounts inspired by Kant will be presented and discussed separately. It will be argued that the reasons for promoting organ donation while arguing against selling clash with each other in an unconvincing way.


Body parts Commodification Dignity Immanuel Kant Market price Organs Organ donation Organ selling 



I would like to express my gratitude to Hoger Baumann, PhD for his valuable comments and suggestions, which helped me to develop and structure this paper. I also would like to thank to Prof. Dr. med. Dr. Phil. Nikola Biller-Andorno and Prof. Dr. Peter Schaber, who have seen en earlier version of this paper and gave me substantial feedback. This research is a part of the project titled “Human Dignity and Autonomy—The Limits of Self-Ownership” that is supported by the University of Zurich Research Priority Program for Ethics (URPP for Ethics) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biomedical EthicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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