Star Lecture archive – John Harris

‘Organs Dead or Alive? The Ethics of Organ Donation’, aimed at Year 12 and 13 students, directly confronts the challenges posed by a dire shortage of donor organs and tissue for transplantation, both in the UK and globally.

Without donor organs, many people who could otherwise go on to lead full lives die each year. Every year in the UK 1,000 patients die while on the waiting list for organs – that’s about three deaths each day of the year. Professor Harris talks participants through a range of questions – and possible actions – that this fact raises:

  • Should we donate organs after death – or even while we are alive?
  • Would it be ethical to refuse?
  • Should (and could) society compel donation?
  • Should we allow people to sell organs, dead or alive?

In the process he presents a world view in which the opportunities afforded through technological progress hold great promise for a human evolution driven by ingenuity. 

About Professor Harris

Philosopher John Harris is Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics at The University of Manchester’s Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation. As the author or editor of 20 books and over 300 papers, he has many years’ experience as an innovator in debate about the moral and legal issues involved in health and healthcare. He has been cited as one of the most globally influential philosophers in bioethical matters, and this influence spans both academia and the public sphere.

Professor Harris’s wide-ranging interests in bioethics include: human enhancement, ageing, rights to use of biomaterials, and a longstanding commitment to transforming policy and practice in organ donation.

You can watch Organs Dead or Alive? below.


Further reading

Harris J. In vitro fertilisation: the ethical issues. The Philosophical Quarterly July 1983: p217‑238.

Harris J. The Value of Life. Routledge and Kegan Paul 1985. Chapter 6.

Harris J. Wonderwoman and Superman. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1992 (chapters 5 and 6).

Harris J. Organ procurement: dead interests, living needs. The Journal of Medical Ethics 2003;29(3): p130-134. 

Erin CA and Harris J. ‘A monopsonistic market’ in Robinson I (ed) The Social Consequences of Life and Death Under High Technology Medicine. Manchester: Manchester University Press; 1994. p134-157.

Erin CA and Harris J. ‘An ethical market in human organs’ in The Journal of Medical Ethics 2003;29(3): p137-138.

Erin CA and Harris J. ‘Janet Radcliffe Richards on our modest proposal’ in The Journal of Medical Ethics 2003;29(3): p141-152.

Erin CA and Harris J. ‘An ethically defensible market in organs’ in The British Medical Journal 2002;325: p114-115.