Leaving Public Evidence Is Morally Right: The Case of Organ Donation in Japan

  • Ryo Oda Nagoya Institute of Technology
Keywords: moral, omission effect, organ donation, Dynamic Coordination Theory, common knowledge, opt-in


Based on a series of vignette studies, DeScioli et al. (2011) proposed that omission bias, i.e., the preference for harm caused by omissions over harm caused by commissions even when the outcome is the same, may be occurred as omission produces little public evidence of wrongdoing. In this study, the effects identified by DeScioli et al. (2011) were examined using an opt-in policy for organ donation in Japan. The results revealed that omission in the context of donating organs was not regarded as immoral, and the individual unwilling to donate and record this decision (public evidence of omission) was rated as morally superior to the individual unwilling to donate and do not record the decision (no public evidence of omission). Considering the Dynamic Coordination Theory, leaving public evidence might be itself morally highly regarded because one can determine which side the actor takes according to the evidence when the act in question (omission in the context of organ donation) is the default and does not have particularly serious consequences.

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