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Full Body Transplant as a Bad Idea
Canavero is an Italian neurosurgeon whose idea of full body transplant has elicited mixed reactions from medical professions and ethicists. The possibility of Canavero’s idea of carrying out a full body transplant by 2017 is under the watch of both medics and public across the world. However, the big question that emerges from this move is, ‘if a full body transplant is possible, will it be a good idea?’ This paper declares full body transplant a misplaced idea that will grossly contravene medical ethics. It is unfair to make tragic decisions that condemn people to death while others continue to live by their organs. The move will be medically inefficient.
Ethical principles are founded on what is good and morally acceptable by the society. Boudreau and Somerville assert that making a choice on who will receive the full body transplant is an uphill task that will compromise medical ethics of sanctity of live, not harming, equality, and value of all persons (1). The criterion on how the process can be conducted is not clear. Will the full body transplant be given to the sickest patients, those who are most promising in recovery, those who come first, the most educated, the rich, young, or old? Since the cost of a transplant is exorbitant and patients who would want the promised immortality vary by color, race, age, education level, social, political, religious, and economic status. It is unethical to induce the death of a person in an attempt to let another person live by his or her organs (Boudreau and Somerville 6).
Allowing this form of transplant might tempt medical practitioners to commercialize their profession by killing people intentionally, but without consent from the person, so that they can exchange the killed person’s organs for money. Besides, this permission will bring the whole process of full body transplant to ethically wanting medical approaches such as rationing the available medical resources (Annas 189). Such approaches, which form the basis of this paper, include the market approach, the lottery approach, the committee selection approach, and the customary approach (Ertin 105). As the paper reveals, these approaches are not good since each of them poses major ethical loopholes in medicine field.
Ethical Loopholes in the Market Approach to Medical Transplant
The market approach to medical transplant stands on the premise that medical transplant will only be provided only to people who can afford to pay for it, either through personal savings or by private medical insurance (Boudreau and Somerville 8). The implication here is that for people to receive a full body transplant that Canavero talks about, they will have to be wealthy or have well-to-do people in their circles. Therefore, the rich class will live at the expense of the poor people. Although money and financial support will be a major factor in the process of body transplant that Canavero expects to take two years, pegging human life on money is unethical.
Modern markets’ reliance on personal funds or private insurance covers is also unethical since most of the modern medical facilities such as life support machines, transplant technology, and medical personnel are funded with public funds. In his view, Ertin reveals how unethical it is for medical practitioners to attach medical care on financial ability (104). Fairness and equality are major foundations of medical ethics. Contravening the two aspects through full body transplant is not good.
In the modern-day society, people pay medical bills through making public appeals or fund raising (Ertin 107). A full body transplant that takes more than one year requiring close medical monitoring afterward for symptoms of organ rejection and repression will definitely result in fund drives. Making public appeals for one to pay for medical bills is demeaning to the patient. Just like in many forms of transplant, these appeals revive the unethical notion that a price can be tagged on human life. Oroy, Stromskag, and Gjengedal give a similar opinion that declares inequality in the medical care provision unfair and unethical (163).
Ethical Loopholes in the Committee Selection Approach
The committee selection approach proposes the formation of ethics committees that decide whether a patient can receive a transplant or not (Ertin 106). Ethics committees have been relied upon in most hospitals, especially in making decisions on whether handicapped newborns are to be sustained through medical care or not, or whether patients who experience too much pain and organ damage should be peacefully injected with euthanasia (Boudreau and Somerville 10).
These ethics committees will also be relied on in most hospitals to decide the patient who will receive full body transplant and who should give the body. These committees will be misplaced since they will be making discriminatory decisions, irrespective of whether the body donor agrees do die or not (Spital and Erin 612). Patients with spinal cord injuries or brain damage cannot make informed decisions on whether to donate their organs or bodies to others. Hence, these committees are also bound to be biased in terms of selection of patients for transplant. As an individual doctor might do, the committee will also result in a certain pattern or criteria of selecting the patients forcefully (Ertin 108).
This plan will be unethical since it will amount to the application of selective healthcare provision against medical ethics. In addition, no individual, group, or even state has a right to make decisions concerning human life. As people get into groups, they carry their character, opinions, and feelings into the issue and hence influence how they make decisions that relate to the transplant. Full body transplant decisions from such committees will yield unethical results since the body donor will have no say in the decision-making process.
Loopholes in the Lottery Approach to Full Body Transplant
The lottery approach to body transplant advocates equality as the most important value in human organ and body transplant (Ertin 108). Although advocates of this approach hold that it can solve the problem of unethical selection in transplant since it does not consider color, race, gender, age, education level, or creed, the approach is unethical since it does not give the patient and the victim an opportunity to make choices (Boudreau and Somerville 11).
People will die and/or have their organs transplanted to other persons without their consent. In the same way, a patient will receive a body from another patient without his or her choice since the decision will be made by third parties. In addition, the approach is also not good since it does not consider important medical issues in transplant such as the patient’s potential for survival. According to Ertin, since the lottery approach gives all patients equal chances of receiving transplant, those who have low potential for survival may end up receiving whole body transplant at the expense of those who may have survived (105).
This situation contravenes medical ethics of saving and elongating people’s life. Moreover, the lottery approach does not consider the medical value of life that a transplant patient is likely to have. After the transplant, patients require intensive medical care to monitor their response, rejection, or repression of organs. This period will require transplant patients to have close relatives or guardians who can take good care of them. In fact, in the whole body transplant that Canavero talks about, patients will require more than two years for them to be stable after the transplant. Hence, there is a need to consider the quality of life that such a patient is likely to have. Otherwise, medical resources are likely to be wasted. Proponents of this approach claim that the technique recognizes the correspondence of all human life (Boudreau and Somerville 12).
However, by putting human life into a lottery where one wins while the other loses subjects the approach to no value addition since it involves a win-lose situation. Human life cannot be priced as their lottery approach holds. In this approach, a first-come-first-serve criterion is most probably applied. Hence, people who arrive first have more chances of mortality than late comers. This observation is unethical since all human life is invaluable. The rich people have more chances of arriving or visiting the hospital than their poor counterparts. This observation implies that the former class is likely to be considered for the full body transplant. The first-come-first-serve approach makes the model more unethical and wrong since it questions the equality of all patients (Oroy, Stromskag, and Gjengedal 163). Instead of taking such approaches, medical practitioners can advocate better lifestyles and better funding to ensure that all patients can access the transplant at will.
Loopholes in the Customary Approach
The customary approach to transplant opens more loopholes to the process of whole body transplant. The approach adheres to the values and traditions of a particular society. The implication is that the society can make a choice on whether a member lives or dies (Boudreau and Somerville 12). For instance, Britain had a general rule in the medical practice that declared a renal failure patient unfit for dialysis if he or she had 55 years and above.
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This rule made condemned a particular group of people to death. For example, patients who had over 55 years could not be recommended for transplant. Therefore, the customs of particular hospitals were crucial in determining who could receive the whole body transplant. Medical ethics declares human life alike. Hence, it should be uniformly valued. Giving preference to a particular group of people based on their age, sex, race, financial status, or political positions is both bad and unethical. Moreover, in some countries such as the US, the customary approach allows medics to select the patients who are to receive transplants based on their clinical suitability and not the urgency of the matter.
The value of equality of all human life is compromised. A single medic cannot determine who lives and who dies. In fact, the customary approach to human transplant breaches the medical oath of protecting people’s life. In the case of whole body transplant that Canavero suggests, the customary approach means that a medic selects the patient who is fit to receive the body as a transplant at the expense of another. Instead of adopting such customary approaches, countries such as the US and the UK have invested in enhancing the number of dialysis machines so that all patients in the country can access the service (Oroy, Stromskag, and Gjengedal 164).
The fact that some older patients can manage renal failure for more years than young patients reveals how it is wrong to condemn and deny a patient access to medical care on the basis of age. If this approach is to be applied in full body transplant, the assumption will also be that older people should donate bodies to the younger ones since it is assumed that young people will live longer. This presumption is wrong and unethical since the length of a person’s life is unpredictable and that it cannot be dictated by age.
Other customary criteria for transplant from the medical literature are that the patient who receives the transplant must have family or close relatives who will attend to him or her after the transplant. However, this requirement is another loophole that is likely to draw the process of whole body transplant back. It means that patients who do not families or close relatives such as orphans and street children cannot receive full body transplant. This gap condemns the patients not to receive medical care based on family relations, ability, and stability. Therefore, the customary approach excludes the poor people from the list of those who are likely to benefit from the scientific discovery of full body transplant.
The idea of full body transplant is weirdly unethical. The suggestion contravenes most of the ethos in the practice of medicine. The application of major approaches to medical transplant such as the market, customary, lottery, and committee selection makes the unethical issue more pronounced. Therefore, it is important for medics not to condemn some patients to death by taking their organs while letting others live by giving them organs. Whole body transplant process should be efficient, fair, and ethical.
Annas, George. “The Prostitute, the Playboy, and the Poet: Rationing Schemes for Organ Transplantation.” Public Health and the Law 75.2(1985): 187-189. Print.
Boudreau, Donald, and Margaret Somerville. “Euthanasia and assisted suicide: a physician’s and ethicist’s perspectives.” Medicolegal & Bioethics 4.1(2014): 1-12. Print.
Ertin, Hakan. “Organ Donation and Transplantation Medicine: Ethical Framework and Solutions.” Turkish Journal of Business Ethics 7.2(2014): 104-120. Print.
Oroy, Aud, Kjell Stromskag, and Eva Gjengedal. “Do we treat individuals as patients or as potential donors? A phenomenological study of healthcare professionals’ experiences.” Nursing Ethics 22.2(2015): 163-175. Print.
Spital, Aaron, and Charles Erin. “Conscription of Cadaveric Organs for Transplantation: Let’s at Least Talk About It.” American Journal of Kidney Diseases 39.3 (2002): 611-615. Print.