The Ethics of Limiting Informed Debate: Censorship of Select Medical Publications in the Interest of Organ Transplantation

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 38 (6):625-638 (2013)
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Recently, several articles in the scholarly literature on medical ethics proclaim the need for “responsible scholarship” in the debate over the proper criteria for death, in which “responsible scholarship” is defined in terms of support for current neurological criteria for death. In a recent article, James M. DuBois is concerned that academic critiques of current death criteria create unnecessary doubt about the moral acceptability of organ donation, which may affect the public’s willingness to donate. Thus he calls for a closing of the debate on current death criteria and for journal editors to publish only critiques that “substantially engage and advance the debate.” We argue that such positions as DuBois’ are a threat to responsible scholarship in medical ethics, especially scholarship that opposes popular stances, because it erodes academic freedom and the necessity of debate on an issue that is literally a matter of life and death, no matter what side a person defends



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Michael Potts
University of Georgia