Posthumous autonomy: Agency and consent in body donation

Posthumous autonomy: Agency and consent in body donation
Tom Farsides, Claire F. Smith
Philosophical Psychology, 6 April 2023
Six people were interviewed about the possibility of becoming posthumous body donors. Interview transcripts were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Individual-level analysis suggested a common interest in Personhood Concerns and a common commitment to Enlightenment Values. Investigations of these possible themes across participants resulted in identification of two sample-level themes, each with two subthemes: Autonomy, with subthemes of agency and consent, and Rationality, with subthemes of knowledge/epistemology and materialism/ontology. This paper concentrates on the former. Consent for posthumous body donation was felt to sometimes fall short of adequately identifying donors’ preferences about what happened after consent was given, even with respect to actions for which consent established permission. In turn, paucity of information about donors’ preferences limited others’ ability to act as proxy agents to facilitate donors’ posthumous autonomy. Thus, while consent may curtail violations of people’s autonomy by authorizing actions for which permission has been established, it may fall short of facilitating their autonomy in ways that might be possible with greater knowledge of those people’s desires. Alternative methods of establishing consent are explored that might better-determine people’s desires and thereby improve others’ ability to act as proxy agents for them to facilitate their subsequent (even posthumous) autonomy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s