Economies as Cultural Systems 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, hilosophy, 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 to accept their given roles within Chinese society. As opposed to certain Western ideologies that promote individualism, Confucianism places familial relationships above individual wants.

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Family life is seen as a means of practice for life in society. Confucianism maintains that one’s moral cultivation happens within the family unit. It is the most important moral concern of Confucianism to adhere to the principles ren, defined as humaneness or goodness, yi, defined as ppropriateness or Justice, and Xiao, filial respect (Wang et al. 204). As aforementioned, Confucianism is an ideology on ethics and not a religion. The ideas it espouses describe modes of behavior in life, though they are unrelated to any sort of afterlife.

The Confucian principle of xiao encourages its followers to take care of their bodies and avoid any injury as “uncareful behavior that leads to body injury is and ancestors (Wang et al. 204). Organ Donation in China Organ donation began in China in the 1960’s and today has one of the largest programs of organ transplantation in the world. Wei Wang and Hui Tian conducted a survey in 2012 on the attitudes of Chinese citizens towards organ donation. They found that of the participants asked whether or not they were supportive of organ donation “89. 1% were supportive of deceased donation, and only 10. % were against it” and that those unwilling to donate their own bodies cited “traditional Chinese values that people should maintain physical integrity of their bodies after death” as well as fear of their organs being sold on the black market as reasons why they were opposed to donating their own organs upon death (Tian and Wang 58). Characteristics of organ donation in China today include harmonious relationships where “medical practitioners, on the one hand, and patients and their family members, on the other hand, have healthy, mutually concerned relationships” (Wang et al, 201).

In 1984, the dissemination of “The Tentative Provisions Regarding Utilizing the Corpses or Organs from the Corpses of the Capital Prisoners” signed by the Chinese Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Health, and the Ministry of Welfare, tipulated that there exist three situations in which corpses or the organs of corpses of executed capital prisoners may be used for medical practice.

These instances include corpses for which no family members will make arrangements or refuse to make any arrangements, corpses that capital prisoners have voluntarily donated before execution, and corpses for which family members agree to have donated for medical purposes (Wang et al, 201). This document represents an important moment in the history of organ donation in China; its condemnation of harvesting organs ithout consent is consistent both with Chinese ideologies (namely Confucianism) as well as foreign ones.

Any instances of organs harvested without the consent of the prisoner or the prisoner’s family are not only illegal but morally wrong under Confucian thought as the importance of the role of the family is denied. Organ Donation viewed through the Ethics of Confucianism Generally, Confucian thought supports the practice of organ donation. Voluntary organ donation that seeks to preserve the life of another, as long as there is no expectation of compensation for the organ donated, is morally Justified under Confucian thought.

Although preservation and care of the body has been cited by certain Chinese followers of Confucianism as reason to object to organ donation (be that donation voluntary or involuntary), this adherence to the principle of Xiao should not be taken as an absolute objection to organ donation. Rather, because organ donation seeks to save human life, donating an organ is not injury to the body but a perpetuation of humanity and an act of goodness. The number of organ transplantations in China has increased dramatically in recent years, due in part to organs harvested from executed capital prisoners.

Issues arise when organs are harvested for their cost-value without the consultation of familial kin; in China the does not align with Confucianism. In his 2012 article “Bitter Harvest,” Ethan Gutmann describes certain organ transplantations done in China as “[surgeries] to remove any physical part that carried retail potential from individuals selected by the state. ” The treatment of the human body as an object with monetary value is unethical under Confucianism, which states that the body is a gift.

Organs harvested in China have been transplanted into both foreign and Chinese recipients willing to pay $60,000 for kidney, $90,000 for a liver, and “seasonal” prices for other organs (Gutmann 2012). Both Gutmann and Wang claim that these organs are harvested from capital prisoners, often without the consent of the prisoners themselves or family; Wang cites two such instances: Case 1: In May 2000, a farmer named Xinrong Fu from Jiangxi Province was executed by shooting. The local court ruled that the kidneys be taken by a university hospital in Jiangxi for kidney transplantation.

Fu’s father was filled with so much grief and indignation that he committed suicide. Fu’s sister filed a law suit against the court. Case 2: In September, 2000, a man named Yonggang Yu from Taiyuan city of Shanxi Province was sentenced to death for robbery and murdering. His mother insisted that the hospital and the court took the organs of her son without explicit approval and wrote “A Citizen’s Denouncement with Blood and Tears” to charge the related institutions (Wang et al 208).

It is evident from these cases that organ transplantations occur sometimes without the consent of prisoners or their families; familial consent is absolutely necessary to maintain the harmony and balance within Chinese communities. 65% of transplantation operations done in China use organs from deceased donors, over 90% of whom were executed prisoners (Huang). Based on the examples above, it is probable that many organ transplantations occur without proper consent. Lack of consent in Chinese organ donation is unacceptable given Confucian ideology.

Under Confucian ideology, “even capital prisoners should be given a chance to do something good, like donating his organs to save others, to honor his family’ (Wang et al. 202); this statement attests to the communal nature of Confucianism; despite malicious acts, even capital prisoners are part of a larger community that they can give back to as organ donors. There is consensus among the Chinese that capital prisoners should be allowed to donate, as leaving behind such a gift benefits not only the receptor but the prisoner as well.

Donations should only occur, however, if full written consent is expressed by the donor’s family. In his essay “The Gift,” Lewis Hyde discusses the difference between gift and commodity, offering definitions that distinguish value from worth. Hyde posits that worth is static and difficult to place a monetary value upon; such is the view of Confucianism concerning the human body. One area Hyde explores is that of kidney donation, incorporating interviews of those ho have donated kidneys as evidence of how the process is one of perpetuating community values rather than a commodity exchange.

Hyde cites a case of a woman on the decision to donate a kidney to her daughter: “l never thought about it… I automatically thought that I’d be the one. There was no decision to make or sides to weigh” (Hyde 65). Though these interviews are the result of studies conducted outside of China, Hyde later states that “because of the bonding power of gifts and the detached nature of commodity exchange, gifts have become associated with alienation and freedom” (Hyde 66-67). The idea that the human body cannot be ommodified appears on a global scale.

Under Confucianism, as well, the donation of an organ is a gift of worth that cannot hold a monetary price. Economic Factors Motivating Unethical Organ Transplantation Confucianism has a clear influence on modern belief systems of many Chinese citizens and even within the Chinese economy; what ideologies, then, if not Confucianism, have motivated organ transplantations done without consent and the sale of those organs? To answer this question, it is necessary to examine the other economic ideologies present in China that have influenced contemporary Chinese economics.

Though Confucianism is more a model of ethical behavior, it should not be completely excluded from the discussion of contemporary Chinese economics. Confucian ideals are indeed upheld in the realm of Chinese business; a 2007 survey conducted by Tianbo Lee and Gillian Moreira concluded that when questioned about the cultural values considered important for successful business in Chinese markets, results revealed that 68. 7% of the respondents selected interpersonal harmony, 62. 6% considered trust, and 50. 8% included collectivism (Lee and Moreira 2007).

It is evident from these data that Confucian virtues are held in the Chinese business orld, serving as a means of establishing lasting relationships between business acquaintances. While Confucianism has indeed influenced the economy of modern China, it has not been the motivating factor behind the commoditization of human organs; this occurrence is better attributed to the role of capitalism in the Chinese economy. It is capitalist drive for profit that motivates the kind of organ donation deemed illegal in China and ethically wrong under Confucian ideology.

The 1984 enactment of the law on “The Tentative Provisions Regarding Utilizing the Corpses or Organs from the Corpses of the Capital Prisoners” came about at a time when China was in the transition from a socialist economy to a capitalist one; the government subsequently withdrew funds from hospitals. In need of revenue, David Matis writes that “the sale of organs for transplants became the primary source of funds” for hospitals due to growing global demand for organs (Matis 2010).

Capitalism in China has provided for a rationalization of harvesting organs from prisoners; under capitalism, the financial benefit received for the sale of an organ outweighs any breach of ethics, thereby efuting the organ’s worth and placing such practices outside the realm of Confucian ethics. Conclusion Confucianism is an ideology and set of ethics that describes proper modes of individual for the benefit of the greater whole.

Generally, its virtues are consistent with organ donation in China; exceptions occur when donor consent or consent of the donor’s family are denied and when harvested organs are considered for monetary value as opposed to intrinsic worth in life. Organ donation when done with consent of either the donor or the donor’s family is more than Justifiable within the follows adherence to the virtues of ren and y’. The decision on whether or not to donate an organ must, under Confucianism, be made with consultation of the donor, the donor’s family, or as is preferential, both.

Capitalism can be held responsible for instances of organ donations deemed unethical under Confucian thought; that is, those in which proper voluntary consent is not given. Works Cited “Confucius Makes a Comeback. ” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 17 May 2007. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. Gutmann, Ethan. “Bitter Harvest: China’s ‘Organ Donation’ Nightmare. ” World Affairs July/August 2012 (2012): n. pag. World Affairs Journal. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. Li, Tianbo, and Gillian O. Moreira. “The Influence of Confucianism and Buddhism on Chinese Business:. The Case of Aveiro, Portugal. University of Aveiro, Portugal, 2007. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. Matas, David. “Ending Abuse of Organ Transplantation in China. ” Epoch Times. N. p. , 19 Aug. 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. Wang, M. , and X. Wang. “Organ Donation by Capital Prisoners in China: Reflections in Confucian Ethics. ” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35. 2 (2010): 197-212. Print. Wang, Wet, and Hui Tian. “Attitudes toward Organ Donation in China. ” Chinese Medical Journal 125. 1 (2012): 56-62. Chinese Medical Journal. web. 12 Dec. 2012.


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