Organ Donation in China under the Ethics of Confucianism
Introduction The subject of organ donation has evoked moral and ethical controversy across the globe since its inception and implies proper and voluntary consent of the person giving the organ. Though the practice is generally accepted, concerns arise when organs are harvested illicitly and sold at cost-value, making a commodity of so-called ‘donors’ and therefore of the human body, breaching ethics. Decisions on whether an action is ethically right or wrong tend to stem from ideologies of religion, philosophy, or ideas on basic human rights. In modern China, Confucianism is upheld as a predominant ideology which maintains influence over beliefs of citizens as well as government actions and legislation. To properly assess the ethics of organ donation in China, it is necessary to take into account the family-oriented nature of Chinese culture, which is derived in large part from Confucian ideology. Organ donation in China is generally consistent with certain aspects of Confucian thought; exceptions occur when familial consent to donate is denied or when worth of organs is replaced by monetary value.
Confucianism in Modern China
Confucianism, since its beginnings thousands of years ago, has been an ethical system concerned with the behavior of human beings towards each other and seeks to promote harmony, balance, and respect for authority within a society in order to achieve inner peace. Upon the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, explicit attacks on Confucius have ceased, allowing for greater general acceptance of Confucian ideology (The Economist 2007). The Communist party’s adoption of Confucianism as its spiritual ideology in 2002 has further spread the prevalence of Confucianism (The Economist 2007). Its ideals are accepted both by Chinese citizens as well as the government; Confucianism legitimizes the rule of the government while encouraging regular citizens
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