Organ donation and cannibalism

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Gadren
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Organ donation and cannibalism

Postby Gadren » Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:44 pm UTC

Yeah, I know I'm new here, so I hope I don't step on anyone's toes... :oops:

Anyway, this morning I started thinking about an intriguing issue -- even discussing it with my friends over lunch (which probably isn't the best place to talk about such things ^_^).

Now, I'm a huge supporter of organ donation, especially posthumous donation. I see it as a great way to take what we have and put it to good use after we're not using it anymore. I may be somewhat radical about this, but I believe that changing posthumous organ donation from opt-in to opt-out could help more people while still letting those who object to donation for whatever reason not do it. But that's a bit off-topic. :)

Basically, the question is this: why does society (our society at least) consider organ donation moral and cannibalism immoral?

From what I've gathered from talking with my friends, the main point if difference between these two transfers of organic material is that organ donation is either done where the giver can still survive, or where the giver is dead through unrelated means and doesn't need the organs. On the other hand, the main image of cannibalism is that of killing people for food, often without the consent of the "giver."

It would seem immoral if organ donation was done in a way that people were being killed for their organs, or done without consent. But here's what I wonder: if we had a system in place whereby people could give consent, to be turned into edible product after death, would it be moral?

I really, really hope I haven't made myself look overly creepy by this post. I don't really have any desire to eat people. ;) Just an intellectual exercise.

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Postby HenryS » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:15 am UTC

If we look for evolutionary reasons for the morals we have now, one good reason that cannibalism would be shunned (or at least have a big yuck factor) is that you need to have a human dead for it to happen, and so ties in with the yuck of murder. There's another yuck with dead things, which makes sense because if there's a dead human here, there's likely a thing that killed that human here too, so we should stay away.

So a good rational reason to not encourage cannibalism, even if the deceased gave consent, is the chance of infection. Whatever bugs a dead human has on/in it are likely to be very happy to be breeding in a human. Yes, there is the same risk with organ transplant, but the benefits are greater for an organ transplantee than an organ ingester.

To answer the original question (why our society finds one thing acceptable and the other not), both activities (transplant and cannibalism) involve some yuck, but the benefits of transplanting outweigh that yuck.

You discussed this over lunch...?

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Postby Vaniver » Wed Apr 04, 2007 2:21 am UTC

I would agree with the primary reasons being possible contagion, and yuck. As well, given the number of people that are unhappy eating other animals, I don't think eating other people would ever catch on :P
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Postby Peshmerga » Wed Apr 04, 2007 2:28 am UTC

I think the main point of discourse is the question whether organ transplant should be placed on the same ethical / yuck level as cannibalism. Organ transplant is "distant" in terms of yuck factor, while cannibalism is very direct in terms of literal closeness.
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Postby Belial » Wed Apr 04, 2007 3:45 am UTC

Well, there's not really a moral level to being opposed to cannibalism. Once you factor out the idea of the body still being important to the person after they're dead, it's just meat.

But the idea of eating people is very unpleasant to us, psychologically. So we don't do it, and we generalize that into telling other people not to do it.

Furthermore, organ donations are generally done when the receiver needs it to live, and nothing else will do. Cannibalism can be replaced with a hamburger.
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Postby Xial » Wed Apr 04, 2007 4:21 am UTC

There is yet another reason to shun cannibalism. Excessive consumption of your species (especially the nerve tissue) can lead to prions: mad cow disease.

I agree with Belial's argument as well. I think that as soon as we have the technology to grow organs, donations will become a thing of the past.

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Postby Akira » Wed Apr 04, 2007 4:27 am UTC

Belial wrote: Cannibalism can be replaced with a hamburger.


Quite well summed right there.

In addition, even in the tribes where cannabalism is still acceptable/encouraged, it is generally a ritualistic, sacred experiance, whether to utterly destroy an opponent, or to assimilate someone back into the circle of life posthumously, or for whatever religious reasons.

Those, frankly, do not exist in what most people call "civilized" society. There is no real moral reason in favor of cannabalism.
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Postby Gelsamel » Wed Apr 04, 2007 4:39 am UTC

If there is permission, then both are too similar to differentiate.
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Postby Belial » Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:16 am UTC

I agree with Belial's argument as well. I think that as soon as we have the technology to grow organs, donations will become a thing of the past.


Well, yes, but not just for the "can easily be replaced" factor. It'll also be because organs grown from your own tissue will lack the rejection problems that donated organs have.
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Postby Vaniver » Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:19 am UTC

Well, yes, but not just for the "can easily be replaced" factor. It'll also be because organs grown from your own tissue will lack the rejection problems that donated organs have.
If homegrown ones are considerably more expensive, though, they're be both people who get organs "tailor made" and those who buy organs "off the rack".

If homegrown ones, as should be expected, become cheaper, there will be little need for donated ones. There may be emergencies where one cannot grow a new organ in time (my heart failure needs to be fixed now, not a year from now), in which case there might be 'temporary' organs passed from a dead person to a live person to a new live person... and so on.
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Postby Gelsamel » Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:22 am UTC

Or instead of from a dead person, a previously homegrown one from someone else?
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Postby Vaniver » Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:52 am UTC

Or instead of from a dead person, a previously homegrown one from someone else?
That would work too. But, people won't stop dying because we stop needing their organs; why waste money on a custom-made organ that won't fit, when there are some lying on the street (literally)?
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Postby Gelsamel » Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:58 am UTC

That also won't fit?

I don't want some half dead heart when I could have a new and improved one.
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Postby Vaniver » Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:02 am UTC

That also won't fit?
Yeah, but this one's free(er).

I don't want some half dead heart when I could have a new and improved one.
If the half-dead heart is unlikely to expire within the period that you'll be using it, and you're going to get a new heart as soon as it's grown, why would you want to pay that much extra (assuming replacement organs are costly) for one that has considerably more years left in it than you'll be using it for?

(On a side note, it'd be interesting to see how long some organs could survive, if passed from body to body)
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Postby Gelsamel » Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:10 am UTC

I'm ignoring money factor here as it was a "if we didn't have the time" question.

And yes that would be awesome, I'm betting a healthy organ could go through 2-3 transplants, dependant on the time it had to spend, and how much extra abuse it received during it's time in the 2nd/3rd body.

Assumin' there is no law against that.. which there probably is :-/.

Edit: Wait, I just realise what you said, who the hell would want to go through 2 transplants? If I was going to get the dead person's one there is no way in hell I'm getting the tailored one once it finally IS made.
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Postby Vaniver » Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:20 am UTC

Edit: Wait, I just realise what you said, who the hell would want to go through 2 transplants? If I was going to get the dead person's one there is no way in hell I'm getting the tailored one once it finally IS made.
What makes you think that the transplants people get now last until they die? I'm under the impression that a significant number of them get rejected / need to be replaced / are old and collapse early.

I, personally, would be more than willing to upgrade from a 'loaner' to what I was born with, except, better.

(Another side note- it'd be creepy to watch your organ grow until it was ready to be put in. Depending on the facilities required, it could be anything from having a video feed you could access from the internet to having it sitting in a vat in your living room.)
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Postby aldimond » Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:25 am UTC

I'm not sure if in the end (that is, years down the line when it's commonplace) growing your own replacement organs will be any more expensive than transplants. I realize this is a very primitive case, but consider ACL replacement: it is cheaper to replace your ACL with tissue taken from your own body (typically taken from your patella tendon) than to get tissue from a bank.
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Postby TheTankengine » Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:47 am UTC

Belial wrote: Cannibalism can be replaced with a hamburger.


How would you know? Maybe human meat is the ultimate in tastiness and delectableness, and some connoisseurs simply won't stoop to mere cows. After all, aren't we all just animals, destined to rot into the Earth, in the end?
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Postby Gelsamel » Wed Apr 04, 2007 9:32 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Edit: Wait, I just realise what you said, who the hell would want to go through 2 transplants? If I was going to get the dead person's one there is no way in hell I'm getting the tailored one once it finally IS made.
What makes you think that the transplants people get now last until they die? I'm under the impression that a significant number of them get rejected / need to be replaced / are old and collapse early.

I, personally, would be more than willing to upgrade from a 'loaner' to what I was born with, except, better.

(Another side note- it'd be creepy to watch your organ grow until it was ready to be put in. Depending on the facilities required, it could be anything from having a video feed you could access from the internet to having it sitting in a vat in your living room.)


I guess.


And on your side note;

I so wanna see a time-lapse of that happening.
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Postby cmacis » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:04 pm UTC

If you consider the carbon cycle then we all are cannibals to some extent. Consider those getting green burials so they'll biodegrade quicker.

Of course the obvious thing is to have regular checkups and have spares made in time for you to need them. Perhaps even store enough spare parts to make another one or two of you from birth (or sooner if we bypass that horribly high risk natural method.)

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Postby gmalivuk » Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:10 pm UTC

TheTankengine wrote:
Belial wrote: Cannibalism can be replaced with a hamburger.


How would you know? Maybe human meat is the ultimate in tastiness and delectableness, and some connoisseurs simply won't stoop to mere cows. After all, aren't we all just animals, destined to rot into the Earth, in the end?


A burger, perhaps no. But actual history has shown that former cannibals do seem to adapt readily to pork, spam, and corned beef. There's probably a reason that Fijians called human meat "long pig".

And anyway, the original point was not one of flavor, but of vital necessity. Organ donations are needed for some people to survive. Human flesh is not. It can, for all functional purposes, be replaced by any other decent source of protein (the lack of which is a common characteristic of societies that engaged in cannibalism for more than merely ritualistic purposes).
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Postby Belial » Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:17 pm UTC

It's also why nobody condemns cannibalism in cases of extreme survivalism (see: Donner party, also, that plane that crashed in the Andes)
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Postby LE4dGOLEM » Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:53 pm UTC

Human tastes of pork.

But pork's taste varies somewhat on what you feed the animal! (which is why non-organic, indoor-reared fed-on-disgustos autopork tastes of urine!)
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Postby VannA » Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:18 pm UTC

I, personally, have no problem with Cannabilism.

A body is a body is a body. Its dead.

If they were killed to be eaten, then thats a different story, one called 'Murder'.

I quite like some of the ideas surrounding ritualistic cannabilism, actually. It (When, you know, raised with it) probably offers some pretty solid psychological benefits.

As it is, we waste our dead now.

Should be fertiliser, or feed, or something useful. Veneration of meat is pretty pointless, really. Be attached to the memories, not to an empty husk.
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Postby Belial » Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:19 pm UTC

Fertilizer and feed I'm fine with.

I do like to minimize the number of people with neurological diseases wandering around, though, so I'd be against mass adoption of cannibalism.
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Postby Yakk » Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:35 pm UTC

There was once an open minded person in France who wanted to learn what human flesh tasted like.

So he hired someone to provide him with human flesh. He ate it, and wrote in a newpaper column that it tasted a lot like veal. Remarkably so -- he didn't think he could distinguish it from veal if he was doing a blind taste test!

Needless to say, this newpaper columnist became a laughing stock. :)

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Postby LE4dGOLEM » Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:40 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:There was once an open minded person in France who wanted to learn what human flesh tasted like.

So he hired someone to provide him with human flesh. He ate it, and wrote in a newpaper column that it tasted a lot like veal. Remarkably so -- he didn't think he could distinguish it from veal if he was doing a blind taste test!

Needless to say, this newpaper columnist became a laughing stock. :)


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Postby Castaway » Wed Apr 11, 2007 2:23 am UTC

Cannibalism and organ doning are completely different.
Gadren wrote:a great way to take what we have and put it to good use after we're not using it anymore.

First off, often times the person(s) being cannibalized are still "using it."
Second, from an evolution standpoint, it is difficult to progress as a species if you are eating your own populus.
Third, "need" vs. "want". People need organs to live, but generally speaking there is some kind of choice when considering foodstuffs.

However, if you are in a dire situation, like The Donner Party, then Cannibalism is justified, imho.
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Postby Belial » Wed Apr 11, 2007 2:24 am UTC

First off, often times the person(s) being cannibalized are still "using it."


How?
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Postby Castaway » Wed Apr 11, 2007 2:27 am UTC

if they are alive. Sorry, that wasnt at all clear.
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Postby Belial » Wed Apr 11, 2007 2:38 am UTC

yeah, killing and eating people isn't really a valid comparison....

I believe the comparison is, once someone's dead, what's the difference between using their organs and eating their flesh?
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Postby Yakk » Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:32 pm UTC

Do you cook it really well?

I mean, do you have huge government enforcers who make it a crime to eat uncooked flesh, and who check to make sure that every human eaten obeys these rules?

And if they skipped, do they throw the offender away in prision for a long time and/or kill them?

Nope? Ok then...

Now we have a problem. Some deseases can quite easily pass from eater to eatee that cannot spread through other forms of transmission. This gives these new deseases a basic reproductive strategy that could result in them evolving into pandemic level problems, as they adapt to humanity.

Basically, it is the same problem as injected drugs and sharing needles.

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Postby Castaway » Thu Apr 12, 2007 1:12 am UTC

moral: don't do drugs, and don't eat people.

Seriously though, cooking meat helps get rid of a lot of diseases (which is why people started cooking food in teh first place)
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Postby Andrew » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:11 am UTC

Yakk wrote:Now we have a problem. Some deseases can quite easily pass from eater to eatee that cannot spread through other forms of transmission. This gives these new deseases a basic reproductive strategy that could result in them evolving into pandemic level problems, as they adapt to humanity.


Well yeah, but if you can avoid those diseases just by not eating people then how is that a danger to society as a whole?


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