The past century has witnessed novel medical advances that have made it possible to transplant organs from one person to another. These innovations have given patients who have failing or damaged organs a chance to enjoy a quality and prolonged life since the dysfunctional organs can be removed and replaced with new ones.
This is a huge leap from the past decades where patients who had dysfunctional organs were doomed to suffer or face an early death if the available health care could not help their organs regain previous vitality. With organ transplantation, it is possible for a person to receive a healthy organ from a donor and therefore enjoy full recovery.
The success of organ transplantation had led to increased demand for the process by patients who suffer from failing and damaged organs. This has led to an acute shortage of organs since the patients requiring this organs far outnumber the donors. In light of this shortage, there have been proposals for the legalization of sale of human organs so as to alleviate the organ shortage problem.
These calls have been met by opposition from people who feel that organs should be given freely by the donor. This paper will set out to argue that organ sale is justifiable since it will help alleviate the suffering of many patients while benefiting the donor.
A case for Selling Organs
The lack of a legitimate market through which people can sell and buy organs has led to an acute shortage of organs. As a result of this, there have been increased suffering and unnecessary death of patients as they wait for donors. The shortage of organs has made it necessary for patients to bear with expensive and painful procedures such as dialysis as they wait for organs to become available.
Mclaughlin, Prusher and Downie (2004) note that many patients have to deal with escalated hospital bills as a result of the long wait and some end up dying during the waiting period. The reality is stark with reports revealing that over 8000 people are on transplant waiting lists and out of this, over 500 die every year due to lack of organs (Smith, 2011).
Organ sale could prevent all this since in a legally regulated market, the monetary incentive to donors would ensure that organs were readily available. Patients would therefore be saved form the unnecessary suffering they currently have to bear with. In addition to this, the cost of hospitalization would be significantly reduced since patients would not have to spend many months or years on the transplant waiting list.
The shortage of organs has led to a heightened demand and this has resulted in the rise and growth of the human organ black market. Since selling of organs is illegal, desperate patients have resulted in getting organs from the black market (Matas, 2008). The black market is unregulated and the manner in which organs are obtained is at times dreadful.
Radcliffe (2003) reveals that, in some cases, unwilling donors are drugged and their body organs extracted from them by black market traders. In addition to this, traders in the black market seldom give the donors a fair share of money from the organ sale.
Most of the donors in poor nations are paid a meager sum for their organs and the organ extraction procedure takes place under poor conditions which makes risks of infection very high. Kotz (2012) highlights the exploitation currently faced by revealing that “poor donors were forced to give up their kidneys for $10,000, while the middlemen received $150,000” (p.429).
Allowing the legal sale of organs could help deal with this since in a legitimate market, donors would be given fair compensation for their organs. The cost of organs in the black market is also exorbitantly high and only the wealthy can afford to buy organs (Gray, 2001). A legitimate market would reduce the cost of organs since the current high cost in the black market is caused by the monopoly that this illegal traders hold.
The black market thrives because there is no legal forum for buying and selling organs and it can therefore by projected that this market would become irrelevant if a legitimate market for human organs was established.
Sale of organs would make the transplantation process safe for all the parties involved. Smith (2011) documents that the shortage of organs has led to the rise of “transplant tourism” which is a case where patients go to countries where the organs they need are available instead of waiting indefinitely on the transplant list. The black market is the primary source for the organs used in these procedures.
The donors are therefore exposed to risks since the organ harvesting is sometimes done under unhygienic conditions. The transplanting procedure also takes place in facilities that are ill equipped and most of the patients find it necessary to seek further medical attention. Their lives are therefore endangered by the lack of a legitimate market where they can purchase organs.
Opponents of organ sale assert that it is morally wrong for a person to profiteer from their organs. This argument is unsound since people are already profiteering from such business (Matas, 2008). The physicians and hospitals which are involved in the transplantation process receive payment for their involvement and the patient benefits from restored health (Radcliffe, 2003).
The donor is the only party in the transplantation process who does not receive any tangible benefits for his role. Kotz (2012) proceeds to reveal that while many people are revolted by the idea of paying for a body organ, they do not see a problem with women selling their eggs to infertile couples for fees of up to $10,000.
It is justifiable for the donor to sell his organ and therefore enjoy some compensation as the other parties involved enjoy. Asserting that the donor should be altruistic while other parties, most notably of which are the surgeons and hospital, make huge financial gains is unjust.
A case against Selling Organs
Commercialization of organs would invariably lead to the poor being tempted to sell off their body parts to the rich. This is not an idle fear since at the present; the poor from developing countries are selling their organs to rich people from developed nations through the black market. Mclaughlin, et al. (2004) reveal that in Brazil, poverty and the attraction of money makes the poor sell their kidneys to rich patients.
If selling of organs is made legal, it can be expected that the poor will be exploited on an even higher scale. While it is true that majority of sellers will be from poor countries and buyers will be from developed nations, the sale of organs will still continue to occur through the black market.
Legitimizing the trade will at least increase the compensation afforded to the donors and also make sure that the organ harvesting occurs in humane and hygienic conditions.
Selling of organs does not improve the long term economic well being of the donor. While proponents of commercialization argue that the sale of organs can be used to alleviate poverty since organs such as kidneys fetch high prices, research does not support this claims.
On the contrary, one research on the poor who sold their kidneys in India found that the donors suffered from deteriorated health status and the money they acquired from their organs did not lead to any improvement in their living standards (Rothman, 2002).
While these poor people had allegedly sold their organs in order to improve their standards of living, over 74% of them had fallen back to their initial financial situation 6 years after selling off their organs.
While it is true that most of the poor who sell their organs do not attain higher standards of living, some do put their money to good use and are therefore able to cater for their families and improve their ways of life. Their organs therefore play a crucial role in bringing about their economic well being.
Commercialization of organs will lead to poor people harming themselves as they sell off body parts with little regard for the risks involved. In a market where it is legal for a person to sell their organs, money will be the chief concern. The organ brokers and the patient receiving the organ are not expected to take into consideration the risks that the poor seller is exposed to.
Research indicates that donating of organs such as the kidney is a risky thing since “it involves more-invasive surgery and long-term risks of having a malfunction in the one remaining kidney” (Kotz, 2012, p.429).
The poor are unlikely to look at the long-term risks inherent with the procedures but rather focus on the short term monetary gains. Kotz (2012) argues for more incentives to be given to donors in the form of health and life insurance to offset the long-term risks that invasive surgeries to harvest the organs might cause.
This paper will set out to argue that organ sale is justifiable due to the numerous benefits it would bring about to both the donor and the patient. The core reason for organ transplantation is to alleviate human suffering by restoring health to the ailing patient. In the present condition where organ sale is outlawed, the shortage of organs has made it hard for many patients to enjoy the benefits of organ transplantations.
This paper has shown that the traditional reliance on donations by altruistic strangers cannot be relied on to supply enough organs. The arguments given in this paper have shown that allowing organ sale will decrease suffering by patients and also reduce their hospital bills.
While there are some legitimate concerns against organ sales, this paper has demonstrated that these sales would benefit not only the donor who will receive monetary benefits but also the patient who will be saved from unnecessary suffering and even possibly death.
Gray, HC 2001, Cyborg citizen: politics in the posthuman age, NY: Routledge.
Kotz, D. (2012). Women Sell Their Eggs, So Why Not a Kidney? In K. A., Ackley (Eds.), Perspectives on contemporary issues (pp.429-430). NY: Wadsworth.
Matas, J. A. (2008). Should we pay donors to increase the supply of organs for transplantation? Yes. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34(1), 18-120.
Mclaughlin, A., Prusher. I. & Downie, A. (2004). What is a Kidney Worth? Web.
Radcliffe, R. (2003). Commentary: An ethical market in human organs. Journal of Medical Ethics, 29(3), 139–140.
Rothman, D. J. (2002). Ethical and social consequences of selling a kidney. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 288 (2), 1589-1593.
Smith, L. (2011). Sale of human organs should be legalized, say surgeons. Retrieved from: <https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/sale-of-human-organs-should-be-legalised-say-surgeons-2176110.html>