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In The God Committee, a New York City hospital’s transplant committee is confronted with a crisis. With the intended recipient of a fresh heart perishing on the operating table, a new beneficiary must be selected in one hour, lest the organ expire. That sets the ticking-time-bomb tone for the ensuing action, which centers on Dr. Andre Boxer, a gruff pragmatist who believes that “the heart is just a muscle” and that such decisions must therefore be made without emotion, and his girlfriend Dr. Jordan Taylor, who’s new to the committee and takes a more holistic view of this process.

Joining them in the committee is no-nonsense head honcho Dr. Valerie Gilroy, realistic Dr. Maryanne Wilkes, conflicted Dr. Allen Lau, and Father Dunbar, a disgraced former lawyer-turned-man of the cloth who’s been appointed to this position by the hospital’s governing board. Their task is to choose from a trio of candidates: an overweight, bipolar father-of-three; a smart single woman with no family and mixed feelings about a transplant; and Trip Granger, the hard-partying son of wealthy financier Emmett Granger, who complicates matters both by offering to donate $25 million to the hospital so his son gets the organ, and by directly pressuring Dr. Boxer, whose forthcoming private research endeavor he’s committed to bankrolling.*

The film explores two ethical questions: (1) who should benefit from scarce medical resources, when not all can benefit? and (2) on what basis should these decisions be made?  Should the responsibilities of the potential recipient to their family and society be considered?  Does the survival of the hospital, and so the transplant program, factor in?  What part do the moral values of the decision-makers play in these decisions?

AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 11.1.3, "Allocating Scare Healthcare Resources," states that such allocation decisions should not be be made on the basis of “social worth, perceived obstacles to treatment, patient contribution to illness, past use of resources, or other non-medical characteristics." Furthermore, first priority should be given “to those patients for whom treatment will avoid premature death or extremely poor outcomes.” Opinion 6.2.1, "Guidance for Organ Transplantation from Deceased Donors," specify that allocation decisions should be based on criteria including "likelihood of benefit, urgency of need, change in quality of life, duration of benefit, and, in certain cases, amount of resources required for successful treatment.” These life-or-death decisions must be made fairly and they should first and foremost safeguard the welfare of patients.

To further explore the AMA Code of Medical Ethics, please visit

*Synopsis excerpted from


Published on December 4, 2023