This article, entitled An Organ Donor’s Generosity Raises the Question of How Much Is Too Much, concerns a man’s thoughts about giving away his second kidney (and thus ending his own life) on utilitarian grounds. By his own calculation, his life — when compared with that of “a dying scientist who was the intellectual driving force behind a breakthrough cure for cancer or AIDS or on the brink of unlocking the secrets of cell regeneration” — isn’t worth much. He’d be “a schnook” not to give such a man his second kidney because “he could save millions of lives, and I can’t.”
And his kids must just be thrilled to hear this when he tucks them into bed at night: “I love my children, I really do. But I just can’t say their lives are more valuable than any other life.”
But no, he’s not crazy. He’s just a fully consistent utilitarian.
I found the article thanks to Peter, one of my fellow grad students at Boulder, who forwarded it to the grad list with the subject line “Those kooky utilitarians.” I couldn’t have summed it up better myself!