What is narrative responsibility?

A paper by Takanobu Kinjo and Masahiro Morioka entitled “Narrative Responsibility and Moral Dilemma: A Case Study of a Family’s Decision About a Brain-dead Daughter” was published in the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 2011. You can read the entire paper at:


The following is an abstract:

“A brain death case is presented and reinterpreted using the narrative approach. In the case, two Japanese parents face a dilemma about whether to respect their daughter’s desire to donate organs even though, for them, it would mean literally killing their daughter. We argue that the ethical dilemma occurred because the parents were confronted with two conflicting narratives to which they felt a “narrative responsibility,” namely, the responsibility that drives us to tell, retell, and coauthor the (often unfinished) narratives of loved ones. We suggest that moral dilemmas arise not only from conflicts between moral justifications but also from conflicts between narratives and human relationships.”

In this paper we propose a new idea “narrative responsibility” by taking an example of the parents whose beloved daughter was diagnosed to be dead in the state of brain death. They believed their brain-dead daughter was alive even after the diagnosis and we can witness a kind of a family reunion made possible by their brain-dead daughter. This is a really moving story. In Japan many people do not accept brain death as human death and if they refuse brain death on the donor card they are considered alive until their heart stops. We would like to hear your comments and/or opinions on this topic.

— Masahiro Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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