"If one approaches moral questions from the perspective of atheism or agnosticism, and then invokes a utilitarian calculus, the human body only has value as an object of use by others," said Furton, who is also editor-in-chief of The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.
Dr. Zoe Fritz, a clinical research fellow at Warwick Medical School and a consultant physician for Cambridge University Hospitals, made a controversial case for involuntary organ donation in an Aug. 31 paper published in the U.K.-based Journal of Medical Ethics.
Fritz used the hypothetical example of a patient in a "persistent vegetative state" who was to have clinically assisted nutrition and hydration withdrawn. She argued that where a patient's death is "inevitable" and when it is agreed by the courts that life support will be withdrawn, It could be in "the best interest" of an unconscious patient "to have a drug that would stop their heart and to have vital organs donated to a family member, acting as a means to the end of saving another," the author said.
"'Best interests' should include the interests that people have previously expressed in the well-being of others; this extends to altruistic deeds," said Fritz.
She suggested the hypothetical case of a mother who ran into the road to save her son from an oncoming vehicle, only to be hit by the vehicle and rendered permanently unconscious. Family members or a judge could decide the mother would have wanted her organs donated to save the life of her son, even if it meant being killed by a fatal drug.
"By extension, it could also be in the patients' best interests to donate their organs to someone else, if that was consistent with their previously expressed wishes," Fritz said.