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why ‘Seven Pounds’ is unethical

In my review of Seven Pounds I said this:

[W]hat Will Smith(TM) is doing, particularly in the cases of these two of the seven people he is handing a pound of his flesh — either metaphorically or literally — is wildly unethical to the point that any honest version of this movie would end with the tragic revelation of that.

And then I promised to go into more detail about what I meant, after more people have had a chance to see the film. It’s been playing for three weeks now, and it held up pretty well over the holidays, so lots of people have seen it.

Spoilers from here on.

In Seven Pounds, Will Smith plays a man who is trying to atone for having caused the deaths of seven people — including his wife — in a car accident. As part of his atonement, he is going to commit suicide, having predesignated that his eyes be donated to a blind man (played by Woody Harrelson) and his heart to a woman with heart failure (Rosario Dawson) whom he has already decided are “worthy” of receiving such gifts.

That’s pretty repulsive, the idea that anyone should be choosing who lives and who dies based on how worthy one man thinks they are, but that’s not what I was talking about. And in the comments section after my review, a few readers touched on the idea that suicide is unethical. But that’s not what I was thinking of, either. I do think suicide is pretty selfish, but I was thinking on a much larger scale, about a behavior that would impact many people — and in a bad way — far beyond the circle of the Smith character’s friends and acquaintances who would mourn his death.

I was referring, instead, to the idea that one can designate a recipient for one’s donated organs. Of course, some kinds of donation, as of a kidney or bone marrow, often relies on the donor agreeing to donate to a particular recipient, but of course that’s not possible when it comes to an organ that you can’t live without… like your heart. Unless you’re willing to die to donate it.

It’s hard to imagine any doctor agreeing to take such an organ from a living donor — that would be wildly unethical. And so in the organ-donation program as it exists today, donors could not, logistically speaking, name a recipient for their organs — being unable to anticipate a particular need by a particular person at a particular time in the (presumably) far future — even if the system weren’t also set up to get organs to the people who are most desperately sick, the people who need the organs most.

In other words, the organ-donation system assumes that donors do not believe they’re about to die.

But the moment anyone actually did what Will Smith does in the movie, the sale of organs — which is prohibited to prevent less sick but more wealthy people from jumping the queue ahead of sicker but less rich people — would become an issue. A desperate father, for instance, looking to make some money for his family might agree to commit suicide — or be pressured to do so — for a prepayment in return for designating a certain recipient of his heart, lungs, kidneys, whatever. The actions of Smith’s character would open a legal and moral can of worms that would have to result in subsequent laws against what he did, and in the meantime, would throw the whole system into chaos.

Any honest movie would have to acknowledge this. Or, even better, it would have shown us Smith’s “sacrifice” going completely to waste as doctors and lawyers refused to accede to his wishes — imagine the person higher up on the donor list needing his heart, and not getting it because he designated the less needy Rosario Dawson as the recipient. Lawsuits and heartbreak — literally — galore!

What Smith’s character does is not romantic or generous or noble. It’s dangerous, and threatens many more people than it would ostensibly help.

posted in:
easter eggs
  • Jim

    Your analysis is spot on but the problem with it is that your are criticizing a real life behavior and a real life consequence rather than a movie. Without thinking, any one of us could probably come up with many more “realistic” behaviors and repercussions for any number of characters from any number of movies.
    This movie was meant to be romantic, fantastic, and heartbreaking – to steal your pun-; it was not meant be a referendum setting state of affairs on the organ donor system. I get that you didn’t really enjoy it mostly for its “unethical” behavior but it’s not truly unethical; it’s just a flawed movie like any other flawed movie. I enjoyed it flaws and all.

  • MaryAnn

    Some aspects of real life cannot be faked or trumped up, and just because a movie wants to insist it is evoking a particular emotion or theme — be it romance, suspense, horror, whatever — doesn’t mean it automatically does so.

  • Josh

    No I think you missed what was happening, he did not legally designate anything to anyone. That was the reason he needed his friend. His friend was obviously someone with some pull in either the legal, or medical fields (I don’t recall it being specifically mentioned what his occupation was) and it was his promise to do what he could to get the organs to the proper people. That was the whole scene with his friend yelling at the doctor and telling him he had to do this now or people would die. Of course it’s unethical, Will Smith’s character was a very tormented person, who was surely not even remotely conisdering ethics as it is defined in today’s world. Of course no doctor would agree to this, unless maybe the doctor didn’t know that the suicide was for the specific reason of donating organs, and he was being pressured considerable by someone who could affect his job.

  • Clay

    There are some revelations- be they scientific or artistic- in which the creative parties involved have to ask the question, “How can what we’re releasing into the world be misused or misunderstood in a harmful way?” Some innovations deserve to be held up to this sacrosanct yardstick (atomic technology, genetic manipulation), while others (Will Smith, Tom Cruise “Vanity” projects) do not. By and large, most artistic endeavors are meant to communicate an essential quality that transcends the literal depiction of the thing itself, and are in my opinion not fairly judged in this manner.

    Do you feel that “Romeo and Juliet” and “Night, ‘Mother” are irresponsible works of art because they might encourage notions of teenage suicide? The former play has been doing just that for centuries on end, scores of young men and women have meet an untimely fate due to a rather twisted interpretation of the play’s message.

    When the end result of your work could lead to mass genocide or the very extinction of humanity, then maybe the work should be condemned. But (and pardon my bluntness here, I know this sounds unsympathetic) if someone is mentally fragile enough to attempt selling their organs after viewing Will Smith’s follow-up to “Hancock,”…they would probably require lifelong round-the-clock-care to ensure their personal safety to begin with, and are probably “threatened” by an unimaginable multitude of sources. In my opinion, Will Smith could not be found at fault for their deaths.

    Realize that I am not at all putting Seven Pounds on the level of Shakespeare (although I did enjoy the film), I only used the play as a point of illustration. And while I disagree with your conclusion, I appreciate the application of forward thought to works of art.

  • Mandragora

    You do realise that Will Smith is an actor and he’s not actually donating seven pounds of himself to anybody, right? You make it sound as if he was unethical, when it’s a character.

    I do get your point, those lists are there for something. But what makes you think those lists are not manipulated?

    And wouldn’t you do the same if you could save, say, your child? I’m not questioning whether it’s ethical or not, but it is human. I would rather save my child than some stranger who may even be a rapist.

    But I repeat, I’m not saying that’s a good or a bad thing, I’m just saying I find it a very human behaviour.

  • MaryAnn

    You do realise that Will Smith is an actor and he’s not actually donating seven pounds of himself to anybody, right? You make it sound as if he was unethical, when it’s a character.

    Excuse me? Seriously, excuse me?

    if someone is mentally fragile enough to attempt selling their organs after viewing Will Smith’s follow-up to “Hancock,”

    Does *anything* I wrote lead you to believe this is what I think? Or are you suggesting that only such a case is worth condemning an unethical movie over?

  • Tom Mone

    FYI, Donor Designation is entirely legal and deemed ethical by the US transplant system, when it is not motivated by tangible remuneration. In the vast majority of cases the designation is made by a family member of the deceased donor, since as noted, the deceased seldom know when they will die and become a donor. There are however circumstances in which someone may pre-identify a potential recipient (usually a family member or friend) and include that instruction in a donor registration or advanced directive. If and when donation occurs that designation is followed before the national “list” if medically appropriate.

  • Clay

    Well, yes actually, the whole segment that begins with “A desperate father…” trended that way for me. Personally I think any father who thought that was the best solution to a bleak financial outlook is probably deeply unstable. Whether we’re talking about suicide out of depression or selling your spleen for profit, I just don’t feel that the filmmakers are responsible for anyone who would do either thing holding this film up as a standard.

    My point was that this movie doesn’t explicitly endorse suicide for organ donation any more than Romeo and Juliet is a play which endorses teenage suicide. Plotlines are not inextricably linked to message and intention. Like most works of art, I find it best understood metaphorically and not literally. It’s a story about learning the value of a human life, and the consequence of action, regardless of good intention. Personally I wondered how it might make Rosario’s character feel to carry Tim’s heart around her entire life. Hearing that, feeling that, and knowing that someone you loved died to give it to you…would it be worth it?

    But that’s just me, admittedly.

  • MaryAnn

    Personally I think any father who thought that was the best solution to a bleak financial outlook is probably deeply unstable.

    I would think so too. But then I also think anyone who resorts to suicide is deeply unstable, too, and not in the least romantic. But I’m talking about the situation within the context of this story. Within the context of story — and *not* speaking about how anyone who watches this movie might react — what Smith’s character does is not romantic, and would not be without ramifications well beyond his intentions.

    By contrast, within the context of *Romeo & Juliet,* none of their contemporaries are likely to believe that suicide is romantic, or indeed even that Romeo and Juliet intended to commit suicide. And outside the context of their story, it is clear that suicide is not meant to be seen as romantic but as tragic.

    The same cannot be said of *Seven Pounds.* By obscuring the ramifications of the actions of Smith’s character, the film wants to pretend that what he does is actually and in fact romantic, noble, and something to be admired.

    Whether we’re talking about suicide out of depression or selling your spleen for profit, I just don’t feel that the filmmakers are responsible for anyone who would do either thing holding this film up as a standard.

    Neither do I. That has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m talking about, any more than railing against a movie that, for instance, depicted an abusive man as “romantic” meant I believed that real men might mistake abuse for romance. It all has to do with approaching the movie on its own terms. And the terms of *Seven Pounds* are reprehensible.

  • JoshDM

    I’m getting tired of touchy-feely movies.

    Does Smith cut a hunk out of his butt and hand it to a hungry cannibal?

    If so, then sign me up to watch this flick.

  • Beth

    This movie moved me to the point of actually caring about what people think about it. I’m actually excited that people are raising these very important topics and not sloughing it off as a far-fetched plot.I don’t remember the last time a movie gave me such a life-affirming experience and I’ve seen many that the “professional critics” said that they should have. In my opinion, anyone who analyzed the movie about the ethics of Will Smith’s character’s organ donation really missed the whole point of the movie.

  • MaryAnn

    So, the movie is not far-fetched but we shouldn’t examine its ethics? So does that mean there are *no* movies we should examine the ethics of? Or should we examine only the ethics of those movies that are so far-fetched that they have no bearing on reality?

    Also: Can you please explain what you found “life-affirming” about this movie?

  • SoulPatch

    I believe this is a movie where there are supposed to be questions. I think it was horribly sad what he was doing becuase it meant he did not have a reason to live. I can see his depression and why he did what he did. You don’t think it is right that he got to choose who is “worthy”, and to me, that is the point of the movie. It isn’t a question of whether he COULD do it, but a question of whether he SHOULD or WOULD do it. That is where the movie is coming from. Should he decide who is worthy? Should he kill himself to help so many people? Or is he simply a depressed man who needs help getting over his tragedy? That is the question my wife and I left with and it worked beautifully.

    I thought this movie was brilliant, and the “ethics” question I believe, is the point of the movie. However, ethics or not, Will Smith’s character was a tragedy and it was very sad to watch him do what he thought was necessary.

  • theman

    unethical – not conforming to approved standards of social or professional behavior; “unethical business practices”

    it was not ethical… but it was a great movie, if you are generally a bad person, i could see you not agreeing with this movie

  • Mel

    but of course that’s not possible when it comes to an organ that you can live without… like your heart.

    I think you meant “can’t” here. And I totally agree with your analysis (you do seem to have a massive influx of trolls lately, ew).

    Movies don’t have to conform to real life, but I sure find them more moving and thought-provoking when they do (and I’m talking about emotional and moral realism, not Tolkien; I like Lord of the Rings just fine).

    And good god, theman, in what UNIVERSE does not agreeing with a movie make someone a bad person?!

  • Clay

    I’m ambivalent on Tim’s choice to sacrifice himself. Objectively I understand that suicide wasn’t the best choice in regards to restoring his base humanity, but on the other hand, I could deeply empathize with his feelings of worthlessness and longing for redemption.

    How do I find the movie uplifting? Well, the best way I can explain it is to say that it reminded me to “be deserving.” That’s laughable to some, and I understand that. I live in metro Atlanta, and I can tell you that I routinely pass by drivers who drive and text simultaneously (dirty confession: I’ve done it too.) I’ve worked in the service industry, and I know exactly why Ben treated Ezra the way he did. Anyone who can react so well to that kind of tirade from a customer deserves a third arm if they want it. But that shouldn’t be the case: people like Ezra could and should be more commonplace. I’m aware that this probably sounds like schmaltzy nonsense to many; but to paraphrase Ebert’s review of the film, I don’t mind having my emotions manipulated as long as it’s done well. In my opinion it was done well in Seven Pounds.

  • Martin

    Really enjoyed your review. As I watched the film I built up the storey in a different way. He impersonated his brothers identity to find people who were ill and of his blood type. He couldn’t handle the pain of killing those seven people so saving those seven lives from donating organs is something he needed to do. When he died, his heart went to the most needy patient, he waited until she was promoted to a level one on the donation list and with her blood type being so rare she is in even more need of a heart that will match. Same goes for the guy who was blind, how many other blind people are likely to have the same rare blood type as himself?

    This is how I read into the film. Hope this provides another angle on it. Personally, I believe it to be more ethical to donate organs to people more worthy of the organs. For example would you give a heart to a wife beater who is a day away from death over a loving father who is a week away from death?

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    Wow, I am so glad I read this before going to see the movie. It sounds awful… I thought there was some kind of sci fi or mystical element at play, from the trailers. Thanks again for taking one for the team, MaryAnn. :)

  • MaryAnn

    He couldn’t handle the pain of killing those seven people so saving those seven lives from donating organs is something he needed to do.

    Yeah, I understand that. I just don’t think that’s something we should be celebrating as noble and romantic.

    I believe it to be more ethical to donate organs to people more worthy of the organs.

    And who would you be to decide who is more “worthy”?

    I think I’m seeing the problem now: Many people would have no problem deciding who should live and who should die.

  • Ken

    Mel: Movies don’t have to conform to real life, but I sure find them more moving and thought-provoking when they do (and I’m talking about emotional and moral realism, not Tolkien; I like Lord of the Rings just fine).

    This is pretty much it in a nutshell. Situations don’t necessarily need to be real for us to enjoy them, but characters need to act like real people, and characters need to react to those actions realistically. This movie, it would seem from MaryAnn’s review, neglects the latter, and it’s not something that an analytical person can ignore.

  • Jan Willem

    I don’t think the Hippocratic oath includes any stipulations about helping “worthy” patients or the preferential treatment of “nice” people. I would even go so far as to state that the selective allocation of organs to those who are “deserving” smacks of eugenetics and similar fascist ideologies. (This sounds like, and probably is, the premise of a bleak sci-fi movie.) All of this is entirely in keeping with the main character’s odious superiority complex I touched upon in the first thread on this movie.

  • Chinick

    Es una película, generalmente las películas son la interpretación en el cine de fantasías realizadas por algún escritor. De allí a la realidad hay un abismo. Por consiguiente, si lo vemos como una ficción no hay nada fuera de la ética. I liked this movie.

  • AJP

    “I think I’m seeing the problem now: Many people would have no problem deciding who should live and who should die.”

    Doctors do it all the time. Are they more infallible than the rest of us? The current donor system, and the rankings it gives to people who “deserve” organ transplants, are both seriously flawed in many ways. I can easily see someone seeking to go around the system believing that their choice is a better one and having a valid basis for making that determination (not that I think Smith’s character in this film has any real good reasons for finding people “worthy” or not).

  • SoulPatch

    MaryAnn,

    You are right, I think many people would not have a problem choosing who should live and who should die. The judical system and the medical field choose all the time. That is what our culture is about. We choose all the time who should live and die. Is what he did “wrong”? I think choosing to kill himself was wrong, but saving other people and choosing certain ones to live. Is that wrong? I’m not so sure. If I knew my heart would save my wife or child would I do it? I would seriously think about it, yes. Is that wrong? Again, I’m not so sure.

  • Tony

    MaryAnn

    “I think I’m seeing the problem now: Many people would have no problem deciding who should live and who should die.”

    I can’t help but think of Gandalf telling Frodo “there are some that die that deserve life…can you give it to them…Not even the wise can see the end of all things.”

    One of my favorite moments from FOTR

  • MaryAnn

    (This sounds like, and probably is, the premise of a bleak sci-fi movie.)

    You know, if this *had* been a science fiction movie, one that explored the ramifications of deciding who should get an organ based on worthiness — and not on purely medical need, which is how the system is set up to work now — then it could have potentially been interesting.

    I think choosing to kill himself was wrong, but saving other people and choosing certain ones to live. Is that wrong?

    Well, who was Smith’s character to decide that Rosario Dawson deserved his heart more than someone else? Or that Woody Harrelson deserved his eyes over all others?

  • SoulPatch

    It is HIS eyes, and heart, why can’t he choose? He fell in love with Rosario Dawson’s character, is that wrong that he gave is heart to someone he loved? There are a lot of people that need a house, is it wrong that he gave it to those people in the movie? That is the question I think the movie asks us. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. I completly understand his reasoning, and again I say, if I had a loved one that needed an organ, I would do everything in my power to give it to them if I could. 12 random people can suggest killing somebody in the United States, why can’t we decide individually where our organs go?

    However, I also agree that his character was flawed, and should of gotten help with his grief instead of trying to make up for it in the way that he did.

  • JoshB

    Well, who was Smith’s character to decide that Rosario Dawson deserved his heart more than someone else? Or that Woody Harrelson deserved his eyes over all others?

    The owner of said eyes and heart. Who are you to decide what someone does with their own organs? If you were dying of brain cancer and had a family member who needed a new heart would you want leave the decision of who gets your heart to a hospital board?

    Mind you, I’m not even sure I disagree with you here. I’m just curious, because these are complex moral questions.

  • Vergil

    MaryAnn, your socialist slip is showing…

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t hide my socialist slip.

    It is HIS eyes, and heart, why can’t he choose?

    A lot of medical ethicists would say leaving him to choose would lead to precisely the slippery slope I mentioned (in which the choice becomes no longer a choice but something people can be pressured into doing). If there weren’t far fewer organs to go around than there are people who need them, this wouldn’t be an issue, but that’s the situation we’re in.

    And the really salient point is that *that*’s the situation this movie is in, too. This movie is set in the real world, where these are real issues. And it *completely ignores them.* It completely ignores the fact that what Smith’s character does would very likely result in his “sacrifice” going to waste, or having a terrible impact on future people because of what he did.

    He fell in love with Rosario Dawson’s character, is that wrong that he gave is heart to someone he loved?

    He had already decided to give her his heart before he fell in love with her. His decision was not about love but about judgment.

    12 random people can suggest killing somebody in the United States

    And that’s barbaric, and I disagree with that, too.

    If you were dying of brain cancer and had a family member who needed a new heart would you want leave the decision of who gets your heart to a hospital board?

    It’s precisely because issues like this are *so* emotional and come with *so much* baggage that a noninvolved, detached third party is required. This is why there are registries of people needing organs that decide who’s at the top of the list based on qualities that are as objective as possible. Right now there are more than 2,700 people waiting for donor hearts — would you be in any shape to evaluate who was sickest, who had been waiting longest, and who was most likely to die if they didn’t get your heart if you were in endstage cancer?

    The irony is, if your relative really were sick enough to need a heart transplant and other factors didn’t rule it out — like not having the same blood type — that relative might very well be the most “worthy” person to get your heart, from a perspective we use now, which is a medical one.

  • JoshB

    would you be in any shape to evaluate who was sickest, who had been waiting longest, and who was most likely to die if they didn’t get your heart if you were in endstage cancer?

    I doubt very seriously that I would care about those considerations.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t be willing to let my heart go to waste just because the hospital refused to put it in my loved one.

  • Jade Fox

    The more I think about it, the more terrifying this whole deciding who’s worthy of organ donation is. I mean think about it. If one were to go through a process that decides whoever is the most worthy of an organ donation will get one, how many people would truly worthy of an organ donation? Let’s be honest the answer would be very few, if any. We human beings tend to be a very flawed species.

    To all of those who advocate this, all I can say is: Be careful what you wish for. If this system were to truly exist then one day you might need an organ from a stranger, but won’t get because someone thinks you’re not a good person.

    Doesn’t sound so great now does it?

  • Vergil

    I don’t hide my socialist slip.

    I love you from time to time.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –AJP: “The current donor system, and the rankings it gives to people who “deserve” organ transplants, are both seriously flawed in many ways.”

    Such as? (One flaw is when celebrities and politicians get moved to the front of the line, but that’s more a case of the rankings system getting bypassed.)

    –”I can easily see someone seeking to go around the system believing that their choice is a better one and having a valid basis for making that determination”

    The vigilante mentality, applied to organ donation.

    –Maryann: “…which the choice becomes no longer a choice but something people can be pressured into doing”

    Exactly. Flipsides that people on this thread may not be considering but that the organ-donor system has carefully considered:

    (a) Family members struggling with the decision of when and why to pull the plug on a relative get the added burden of a huge conflict-of-interest if that relative’s organs are going to another relative who is also seriously ill. (b) Doctors can come under pressure to perform transplants that they deem medically inadvisable; i.e., when patients and loved ones gain latitude to direct organs to specific individuals doctors’ hands get tied. Definitely, be careful what you wish for.

  • AJP

    “Such as? (One flaw is when celebrities and politicians get moved to the front of the line, but that’s more a case of the rankings system getting bypassed.)”

    Many types of donations (livers, for example) are allocated based upon who is sickest at the time an organ becomes available. One could easily be of the opinion that a liver should not go to the sickest available person on the basis that it would do more good in someone less ill. Also, for example, the liver donation system does not (if I remember correctly) take into account whether the liver damage was self-inflicted through alcohol abuse or similar casues. I could easily see someone making a valid determination that this is a serious flaw in the system. Most other organ donation allocations are done similarly, and have similar flaws.

    The “sickest, longest, damn most other considerations” method of allocating organs has some serious flaws – it is simply the one that the most doctors could live with as a consensus compromise.

    As a side note, I will point out that Smith’s actions in the movie, though disturbing to many, are not actually illegal. Directed donation is legal in most states in the United States, and is allowed under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.

  • bitchen frizzy

    The organ allocation system isn’t that simple, actually. The system does, in fact, consider more than just “sickest, longest”. There’s tissue compatability, obviously. There are a lot of other criteria, that the participant hospitals are more secretive about because they involve patient confidentiality. The long term survival chance of the recipient is a factor. The “sickest/longest” person will get passed over if they’ve reached the point that a new organ probably won’t save them. Other medical conditions that shorten lifespan, like diabetes, or that elevate the risk of death during surgery, can move a potential recipient down the list. The system also considers lifestyle factors.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I should hasten to add that in consideration of “lifestyle factors,” the system is concerned only that the organ go to the patient who will get the most medical benefit. It is not a judgement of that person’s character or social worth.

  • tom

    The current transplant organ allocation system
    Is based ok time waiting and greatest medical need, as calculated by lab values. The myth of celebrities “jumping” to the top of the list is just that, a myth. Perhaps there was some evidence of this 25 year ago when transplant was new, but not today. A single case of surgeons trying to skip a few patients to benefit another was found four years ago and those guys have been tied up in court and out of transplant ever since.

    The real issue is a shortage of donors and that will only be solved by each of us recognizing we are a part of a community that holds itself together through mutual concern, caring, and generosity and decides to donate a kidney to a friend in need or every organ and tissue…when we no longer need them. Will’s movie takes this responsibility to the extreme, because that’s what stories do to drive a point home (and sell tickets)….did it work?

  • bitchen frizzy

    Yes, agree totally, there wouldn’t be a wait list if everyone who could donate (or their next-of-kin) would do it at time of death.

    I know from the experience of a loved one who went through the transplant process that the wait-list ranking is neither as simple nor as scientific as time spent plus medical need. Those are the major factors, along with tissue typing.

    WRT celebrities, I had the Mickey Mantle case in mind, and there’ve been others, but actually I’m defending the allocation system as effective and honest, with rare exceptions.

  • MaryAnn

    Our organ donation system should be opt-out, not opt-in. It should be that we have to sign that thing on the back of our driver’s licenses if we DON’T want to be a donor when we die, not, as it is today, if we DO. Those who have religious or other objections to organ donation can make their wishes known that way — and other ways, as in living wills and such. But most people never think about these things at all, and so never sign the damn back of the driver’s license, and if their families can’t cope with making such a decision in the heat of grief, the organs go to waste.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I’d also like to see the day when society is comfortable enough with an opt-out system for the laws to be changed.

    There are still a lot of social barriers, besides religious objections. There’s general mistrust, which is behind widespread fears of organ harvesting if doctors no longer need the permission of next-of-kin. A few documented and sensationalized criminal cases of doctors hurrying death along to get at some organs hasn’t helped. There’s also the general notion that doctors shouldn’t be able to cut on someone without permission, and a concern that an opt-out system would be a slippery slope, and that factors in.

  • MaryAnn

    Too many damn people read that Robin Cook atrocity *Coma,* that’s the problem…

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    Too many damn people read that Robin Cook atrocity *Coma,* that’s the problem…

    Have you ever tried reading that book, MaryAnn? I tried doing so once a few years after the movie came out and I didn’t have the heart to get through it. It was written that badly. There are undoubtedly a lot of doctors out there who can write a good story but Robin Cook, alas, is not one of them.

    The sad fact is there are a lot of better stories on the same topic–Dennis Etchison’s “Dead Line”, Larry Niven’s “Patchwork Man,” Robert Silverberg’s “Caught in the Organ Draft,” etc.–and yet few have earned the same amount of attention as that damned book. So much for meritocracy…

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    MaryAnn, your socialist slip is showing…

    At least you didn’t accuse her of wearing a national socialist slip. Thank God for small favors…

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    The sad fact is there are a lot of better stories on the same topic–Dennis Etchison’s “Dead Line”, Larry Niven’s “Patchwork Man,” Robert Silverberg’s “Caught in the Organ Draft,” etc.–and yet few have earned the same amount of attention as that damned book.

    That should read “Dennis Etchison’s ‘The Dead Line’” and “Larry Niven’s ‘The Jigsaw Man.’ Not that a lot of people will necessarily care about those mistakes–but given the number of sci-fi readers who post here, some might.

  • Ken

    Our organ donation system should be opt-out, not opt-in.

    This might be relevant to your interests, if you’re not already aware of it:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926734.100-new-laws-could-make-everyone-an-organ-donor.html

  • MaryAnn

    Have you ever tried reading that book, MaryAnn?

    I have, and hence my characterizing it as an atrocity.

    From the article that Ken linked to:

    The absence of an objection isn’t consent

    True. But right now the absence of consent is sometimes considered objection.

    The article also mentions how important it is that family members of the deceased be approached in the right way. Opt-out wouldn’t preclude that, of course.

  • Sean Riley

    … dammit, Mary-Ann!

    For once I was proud to be in disagreement with all the critics on a film! But your argument here is pretty much water-tight. The sheer immorality of the underlying premise does really destroy the better qualities of the film.

    I still will argue against you that it attempts to paint Will Smith as noble. He’s portrayed as desperate, lonely, and pained — His needs for atonement and self-destruction entwined.

    But it does have that massive issue you’ve pointed out there, and doesn’t begin to address it. It’s a massive, glaring issue and no, I can’t respect the film without it addressing it.

    How the hell am I going to convince my girlfriend that I don’t agree with critics on principle (which she’s accused me of) when you’re all so darned persuasive!

  • MaryAnn

    You can use me as the example that proves the rule that you’re not being unreasonable. You can say, “See, I can agree with critics when they make sense — remember that one time I agreed with MaryAnn?”

  • Sean Riley

    But that’s every time – That’s her whole argument against me! [horrified looks]

    Ahem. I am kidding. Mostly.

  • True Revealer

    The source of this thread makes an interesting point. However, perhaps there is a different purpose for this film. Consider the following: prior to China’s official declaration of use of death-sentenced prisoners for organ-harvesting, there was much Chinese media (films, TV, magazines, etc.) extolling the virtues of humanity and sensitivity associated with “sacrifice” to the greater good.

    If the connection is not immediately clear, allow me to expound: media content such as Seven Pounds has a directed purpose. The sheeple are now being desensitized to organ-harvesting in the US. This should be unsurprising, as there has a been a dedicated effort to reduce the value of both individual humanity and the nuclear family for over a century. This effort is in line with the philosophy of Carl Marx, whose communist thesis relied on dehumanization for the greater society, and advocated such subversive techniques.

  • Paul

    Actually, Karl Marx’s thesis relied upon the capitalist dehumanization of people, turning all people into less and less important extensions of better and better machines. Eventually machines would be so productive that human workers would be unnecessary. At that point, humanity would rebel against the people in charge of the machines and regain their humanity as free individuals. Machines would do all the work we didn’t want to and people would do as they liked. But don’t feel bad True, most people don’t understand the difference between Marxist theory and the variety of communisms practiced in history. Marx himself was mostly a guest lecturer at communist meetings, seeing no reason to get himself arrested as a revolutionary since he believed history was going to unfold as he imagined regardless.

    Asimov predicted this would lead to a withering away of humanity (see his robot stories) while Roddenberry thought it would lead to a wonderful life (the Federation’s technology is basically post-capitalist, but the writers cheat on that as suits their artistic needs). So if we’re going to talk about Marx at the movies, we can start with I, Robot and Star Trek Whichever.

  • Grant

    Paul, it’s nice that you took the time to respond to True Revealer, but didn’t you realize he was beyond reasoned arguement the moment he used the word “sheeple”? ~.^

  • Paul

    Actually, I thought the word “sheeple” was the most clever part of his posting, in a Joss Whedon playing with language sort of way. Sometimes I feel we all exist just to be sheered by the elites, both of how we spend our time and in how we spend the money.

    I once had a summer job at a factory, and when the manager came around asking who wanted overtime, I was the only guy who always said no. They were already paying me more than I needed (I worked the weekend night shift so my pay was doubled, plus they were three 12 hour shifts) and I valued my time more than the cash. Everyone thought I was so strange. On the other end, when I complain about being pushed to keep updated on the technology of computers and entertainment systems, which means spending big money for minor improvements, I get called a Luddite (affectionately, I think).

  • True Revealer

    To Paul:

    If you notice, your attempt to discount my statement merely provided a more detailed account of said statement. However, to avoid further argument, I should say that I was referring to the dehumanization concept more broadly, more as a reference to the long-term existence of the intention to engage in such a program.

    Perhaps if you were to look first for similarities rather than for differences, you would begin to understand what actually is going on with this current shift toward dehumanization by way of human sacrifice. Apparently, however, you are more interested in sci-fi geek fantasy worlds, so I am not terribly sure you would benefit from such a recognition.

    As one final attempt to sway you, however, I will utilize an idea from one such sci-fi show: if you cannot decipher the inner workings of the plan, you will realize only too late what “To Serve Man” really means.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    I’ll probably regret this but here goes…

    If the connection is not immediately clear, allow me to expound: media content such as Seven Pounds has a directed purpose. The sheeple are now being desensitized to organ-harvesting in the US. This should be unsurprising, as there has a been a dedicated effort to reduce the value of both individual humanity and the nuclear family for over a century. This effort is in line with the philosophy of Carl Marx, whose communist thesis relied on dehumanization for the greater society, and advocated such subversive techniques.

    So what purpose is served by such movies as Coma and Dirty Pretty Things, which warn of such dehumanization?

    Science fiction writers have been warning about the dangers of a society obsessed with organ transplants since the late 1960s. Hell, even Larry Niven–who is no political southpaw–wrote a short story on this theme–though I don’t necessarily recall him blaming the Communists. Indeed, his coining of the term “organ-legging” to refer to black-market organ procurement would seem to imply that such a vice has capitalist origins.

    Then again, there are few social problems in capitalist society that don’t also exist in non-capitalist society–and vice versa.

    On the other end, when I complain about being pushed to keep updated on the technology of computers and entertainment systems, which means spending big money for minor improvements, I get called a Luddite (affectionately, I think).

    As the son of late adapters who himself has a tendency to be a late adapter, I feel your pain.

    I often find it odd how the same people who used to complain about planned obsolescence in the auto industry back in the 1960s have little if any complaints about planned obsolescence in the computer and entertainment fields. And how weird it is that their descendants seem to have no problem at all encouraging the concept of playback drift.

  • Paul

    To True Revealer: And if you notice, what I was trying to point out wasn’t that you were necessarily mistaken about psychological effects of certain policies, but rather about the teachings of Karl Marx personally. Critize governments all you like, but if you are going to damn Karl Marx it should only be for what he wrote and did, otherwise you’d have to blame Jesus for the Inquisition and Crusades, Adam Smith for Republicans, and Buddha for the samurai invasion of Korea. I assure you, all four of these famous personages would be very disappointed in how their lessons have been applied.

  • Brian

    Everyone of you in this “moral” and “organ donor system legality” debate are forgetting the REAL dissapointment in this movie.

    Most importantly, the fact that if Tim was stung by a poisonous jellyfish that would lead to his demise, ALL of his organs would be poisoned, therefore rendered useless for donation.

    Unbelieveable none of you acknowledged the scientific inaccuracies of this film. This is a great example of how the U.S. is losing the science race.

    Secondly, eye transplant’s which include the whole eye are medically impossible. We know this because Woody’s eyes went from blue to Tim’s brown. There is no “cure” for the blindness Woody had.

    Plus, a jellyfish would die in a matter of days in that tank.

    There were many other flaws in the movie but my first two points ABSOLUTELY ruined this powerful and intriguing movie. Once you break scientific factuality, the movie in the end turned into merely a science-fiction movie. I could smell Scientology a mile away!

    If the movie would of kept to scientific accuracies, I would of enjoyed the whole film.

    The ending was INCREDIBLY, POORLY WRITTEN AND RUINED THE ENTIRE MOVIE, AND THE ENTIRE THEME OF THE FILM! SHAME ON THE WRITER, DIRECTOR AND EVERYONE ASSOCIATED WITH THIS PICTURE WHOM DIDN’T TAKE THESE SIMPLE SCIENTIFIC FACTS INTO CONSIDERATION!

    People above my comment’s, shame on you as well. Not one of you brought these point’s up.
    Some of you seem to be knowledgeable about the organ donating rules and procedures, but you all forgot there would be no organs to donate!

    Your philosophical opinions about the ethics of this movie are your own. The world doesn’t have to agree with YOUR set of ethics. What is ethical for one person may not be ethical for another.

    None of you realized that Tim was in such mental anguish and turmoil, that he thinks of killing himself “everyday”, if you recall his quote in the hospital room.

    I was intrigued the entire movie because I love movies that are shot out of sequence. They make me use my brain to try to figure out the plot, understand character’s personalties, and use a little method called “deductive reasoning skills”.

    This COULD of been an incredibly powerful movie, which it was, until the last 20 ridiculous minutes that ruined the entire story.

    What a shame.

  • JoshB

    This isn’t a discussion about science, but about ethics. Otherwise the title would have been “Why Seven Pounds is Unscientific.”

    Also, you would do well to trim your writing down to the essential points to avoid repeating yourself. That was a very long post that had a very simple point to make. Another pass for grammar mistakes would help your case too.

  • Kayla

    Personally, I found this review repulsive. You bring up a lot of real-life truths, but there are a few things you must keep in mind…

    1. This is JUST a movie. It is Hollywood. It is a fictional story that is noble. He is repaying his debt for the sin(s)/horrible act he committed. His repentance is something to be admired by those who could care less about the consequences of their actions.

    2. As someone who has PERSONAL experience with organ donation/transplantation, I had a lot of emotions throughout the course of this movie. This, personally, was the hardest movie I have ever sat through, knowing all the time, that in the back of my mind, that someone would have to die for a loved one of mine to live. Having that idea put right in front of me is often difficult to deal with, but I feel that this movie depicts such a situation beautifully.

    3. Also, I feel that this movie encourages those who have not considered organ donation to do so, and what it could do for the life of someone who is in desperate need for an organ. For those of simpler minds, it says, “Will Smith donated his organs in a movie, I should too.” For those of a greater intelligence, it hits that there are people in the world suffering because they need a life-saving organ. Many people never consider the option of donating their organs and having such a situation put in front of their face can make them change their mind.

    Before criticizing something that you seem to have little knowledge about it, you should probably research and THINK first.

  • Ashleigh Walsh

    Quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Let’s say for a sec that the subject matter actually was real and your organs actually were compatible all the people you deemed “worthy” and you actually could will all your organs to the aforementioned people. You’re going to kill yourself, so I feel that it should be your own damn choice on who gets your organs. If it was my shoes and two people; one rapist and one tireless social worker both needed the same organ, do you really fucking think I want my organs going to the rapist? Fuck no. Personally, I could give a shit about most people. Most people are terrible things. They are selfish, self-absorbed and miserable; myself included. Truly good people are not the norm, they are the exception. Very few people on this good earth actually earn the right to stay here on a daily basis. So, who has the right to deem someone worthy? Anyone with the power to influence that worthiness.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Actually, if most news stories nowadays are to be believed, wearing a slip is fast becoming as fashionable for most young women as wearing a corset.