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The Survival Lottery By John Harris - Essay Example

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The Survival Lottery By John Harris

Harris also assumes that no organs are available from the already dead so as to make the ethical choice sharp and clear.Lastly ,an obvious assumption is that the transplantation technology has achieved the status of ensuring complete success and that ill individual would live after the transplant.
If organ donation was perfect and there was no difference between killing and letting die. Then we should adopt the Survival Lottery. The proposition by John Harris can be seen as an argument against Utilitarianism, although Harris himself often makes Utilitarian claims in his work.
Let us adopt the famous illustration of Harris viz. that of three persons A,Y & Z.A is healthy and is potential target for organ transplant and Y & Z are both terminally ill and can be saved by organ(s) donation from A and subsequent 100% successfully done transplant(s). Simply speaking why not kill A to make Y and Z surviveOr should we allow Y and Z to perish.There are two arguments against letting Y and Z perish.One is the Utilitarian argument and the other the Fairness argument. The former says that we should do that which will have the best consequences and it is a better consequence if more people live. Therefore even if we intentionally kill a healthy person, doing so will save at least two unhealthy persons who otherwise would have died, more people will live thanif we refuse to kill the healthy person. So, we ought to intentionally kill a healthy person when doing so will save at least two unhealthy persons who would have died otherwise. The latter argument says that we should not unfairly decide to kill anybody-it has to be on a fair basis.If we refuse to kill A then we have presumably decided to kill Y and Z and vice versa.Therefore an outright decision not to kill A ought not to be taken.Survival lottery proposition while agreeing with utilitarian argument that more lives are better than one suggests a "fair basis" to select the person to be killed from the available lot of healthy people viz.through random lottery.
Arguments Against the Survival Lottery
The Survival Lottery would undermine our security, something which all desire reasonably. The Survival Lottery fails to 'respect individuality' because it treats A, Y, and Z 'merely as interchangeable units.' The Survival Lottery involves 'playing God with men's lives.' The Survival Lottery involves us in killing, whereas refusing to practice the Survival Lottery only involves us in letting die. And killing is worse than letting die. The Survival Lottery is inconsistent with recognizing that every person has a fundamental right to self-defense. Harris's argument is based on the "maximizing lives" theory, as he believes there is value in numbers and that two lives are twice as valuable as one. As a consequentialist it does not matter to Harris how the ...Show more


The Survival Lottery is an experiment in thought whose proponent is John Harris. The core of the idea is to ask people to imagine if organ donations were expected to save more individuals than it would kill. Haris states that hypothetically all healthy individuals are assigned a unique number and drawn under a lottery whenever a donation is required(Harris,1986).Such drawn healthy people are expected to give up their lives to allow two or more terminally ill people to live through their organs.Harris assumes that all the required transplants are critical.That is, if the such transplants were not forthcoming then the ill would get killed.Further none of the organ failures resulted out …
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The Survival Lottery By John Harris essay example
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