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Death as the Good: Philosophical Problems of Organ Donation

Student: Nikita Khrustalev

Supervisor: Anastasia V. Ugleva

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities

Educational Programme: Philosophy (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2020

The physiological side of death is directly related to its defined philosophical, moral and sociocultural dimension. Attitude to death is one of the defining and system-forming characteristics and principles of any human community and culture, as well as of self-understanding and self-esteem of a person. This work shows how attitudes toward death cannot, in fact, be considered in isolation from human identity and, more generally, from human life. This, on the one hand, makes it possible to justify the need to include philosophical discourse and the distinction between life and death in modern discussions about organ donation, and, on the other hand, entails the need to formulate and solve issues and problems associated with determining the moment of human death. The approaches of two significant thinkers of the 20th century, Heidegger and Levinas, are described and compared, for which the philosophical category of death and the conceptual boundary between “life” and “death” provide great opportunities for the problematization of organ donation, which raises the question of the admissibility of the practice itself because of its mobility and possible abuse of ambiguous definitions. The main bioethical problem of death is formulated in the context of the practice of organ donation, which consists in defining a universal criterion for death, which would allow as painless as possible from both physiological and ethical points of view to carry out the procedure of removing organs from the human body in order to help (provide the Good) another person, whose life depends on organ transplantation. This study shows how modern practice of organ donation actualizes, complicates and problematizes traditional existential issues and how reflection on them allows us to rethink biomedical practice itself. The examined and compared perspectives of modern thinkers’ philosophical comprehension indicate the problems of death in the context of the modern practice of organ donation. Moreover, in order to actualize precisely the philosophical component of the modern discussion of organ donation in the context of the issue of death, the theses of these authors are analyzed based on the main provisions of the “philosophy of death” of Levinas and Heidegger.

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