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The Development of Organ Transplantation: Commerce Legalizing Essay


One of the most innovative medical breakthroughs of the last century was the development of organ transplantation. This technology has literally given patients, whose conditions would have been a death sentence in previous decades, a second chance in life. While the effectiveness of organ transplantation is undisputed, there has been a growing problem of organ shortages as more people seek this life saving procedure. The Organ Donor Organization declares that the US has over 122,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list and of this number, 18 people die each day while waiting for a viable transplant organ (par.2).

This has led to calls for the establishment of a legal market for transplant organs in order to increase the supply of this vital commodity. Such calls have been met with fierce opposing from people who argue that commerce in human organs is morally reprehensible and a doorway to the exploitation of poor donors by rich patients. On the other hand, advocates of commercialization argue that this is a feasible means of overcoming the current organ shortage. This paper will set out to argue that there is a dire need for organs and commercialization presents a way to increase their supply and save lives.

A Case for Organ Sales

Organ sales would help overcome the dire shortage of transplant organs in the US by giving donors a financial motivation for providing their organs. The Organ Donor Organization reveals that currently, selling and buying of organs for transplant is illegal in the US and the only way these organs can be procured is from donors (par.1). However, the number of donations is low and fails to meet the high demand created as a new patient is added to the transplant list in the US every 10 minutes.

This has created an organ shortage crisis with over 122,000 Americans waiting for an organ to become available (The Organ Donor Organization par.2). In addition to the real threat of imminent death if no organ is found, patients face unnecessary suffering as they wait. The patients are forced to seek out alternative medical care options such as dialysis, which are not only painful but also very expensive. A report by NBC Chicago highlights the plight of 35-year-old Daniel Perez, who has waited for two years for a compatible donor after his kidney failed two years ago (Leitner and Capitanini par.9).

He has to endure four-hour sessions of dialysis treatment thrice a week and his quality of life is greatly diminished. Perez’s suffering is a direct result of the organ shortage. This shortage crisis and the subsequent harms it imposes on the patient could be overcome by introducing a legally regulated organ market. Abouna asserts that a controlled system of donor organ sales would increase the supply since the donors would have a financial incentive to provide organs (37). Introduction of a legal organs market is therefore a feasible solution to the current shortage.

Proponents of the legalization of organ sale assert that commercialization would help tackle the problem caused by the rise in an illegal human organ market. Owing to the shortage in donor organs, some desperate patients have turned to the black market to obtain the needed organs. A major characteristic of the black market is that it is unregulated and the sellers can resort to violent means to obtain the organs. Radcliffe reports that there are instances where criminals turn people into unwilling donors by drugging them and then extracting their organs to supply the lucrative black markets with the commodity (139).

In the US, there are troubling cases of black-market dealers colluding with funeral home directors to extract and sale organs from dead bodies without the consent or knowledge of their loved ones. One Georgian teenager, Kendrick Johnson, had his heart, lungs and liver removed by black-market dealers who colluded with a funeral director to carry out this crime (Archer par.4). The unscrupulous traffickers proceeded to stuff Kendricks body with old newspapers to hide the fact that the organs were missing.

Archer notes that with organs selling for as much as $150,000 in New York, dealers have a huge financial motivation to obtain transplant organs by any means (par.9). A regulated and controlled system would essentially make trade in human organs a legitimate enterprise. Dealers would be under government regulation and there would be forced to acquire organs legally. The black market, which exists due to the high profit margins, would be rendered useless by the presence of a legitimate market where organs would be available at a standardized cost.

Why Organ Sales Should not Be Legalized

Opponents of legalizing organ sale declare that such an act would result in rich patients benefiting from the poor who would be enticed to sell their bodies. This is not an idle claim since as Leitner and Capitanini reports, poor individuals result to selling their organs to deal with pressing financial needs (par.1). Legalizing organ sale will lead to an increase in the number of poor people selling organs for monetary gains. While proponents of commercialization argue that the money would benefit the poor, opponents are adamant that the sale would not cause any lasting economic gain. Rothman declares that most poor donors use the money obtained from organ sale to pay off debts, which leaves them in their original state of poverty (1527).

In addition to this, the future health outcome of the poor is negatively affected by the operation. Organ donation has some long-term risks that the poor are unlikely to consider since their primary objective is the short-term monetary gains to be achieved (429). Rothman reports that in India, a country where organ sale is prevalent, a third of the individuals who sold a kidney reported deterioration in their health status within 3 years (1527). Opponents of commercializing organ sales therefore argue that it would be immoral to legalize this trade since it would benefit the rich patients at the expense of the health and well-being of the poor. The systematic exploitation that a legal organ market would create is undesirable in the society.


It is true that a legal organ market would mostly attract the poor who would be enticed by the monetary gains. Archer agrees that even in a legal market, human organs would still fetch a significant amount of money (par.5). People living under financial constrains would consider selling an organ as a means of getting a lump sum of money that can help in economic upward mobility. However, this does not necessary mean that the rich would be exploiting the poor. Radcliffe observes that the donor would receive a significant remuneration for his organ and if properly utilized, this money would be beneficial to him (139).

While there have been cases of the poor donor’s suffering from deleterious health outcomes following an organ sale, this result is a direct factor of the lack of legalization. A key reason why the health outcomes of the poor deteriorate after organ donation is that the organ retrieval takes place under poor and unhygienic conditions. Since there is no regulation, some of the operating facilities are ill equipped and the poor are not provided with enough care after surgery. In a legal market, the government would ensure that the procedure takes place in well-equipped facilities and the future health of the donor is guaranteed.


This paper set out to argue that the commercialization of transplant organs would be beneficial to patients and the society as a whole. It began by underscoring the importance of transplant procedures in restoring health in people who have ailing organs. Considering the primary objective of organ transplantation surgeries is to restore health therefore alleviating suffering and preventing death, the current organ crisis makes it hard for this noble objective to be achieved.

This paper has shown how commercialization would ensure that the benefits of organ transplantation are enjoyed by many patients and in a timely fashion. Abouna declares that organ sale as the “potential to save lives and improve the quality of life” (37). The establishment of a legal market would also prevent the black market from thriving on the suffering of the sick and the desperation of the poor. Steps must therefore be taken to move towards introduction a controlled system of organ sale in the United States.

Works Cited

Abouna, George. “Organ shortage crisis: problems and possible solutions.” Transplant Proc 40.1 (2008): 34-38.

Archer, Dale. “Body Snatchers: Organ Harvesting For Profit.” Psychology Today. 2013. Web.

Leitner, Tammy and Lisa Capitanini. NBC Chicago. 2014. Web.

Radcliffe, Richards. “Commentary: An ethical market in human organs.” Journal of Medical Ethics, 29.3(2010): 139–140.

Rothman, Sheila. “The Hidden Cost of Organ Sale.” American Journal of Transplantation 6.7(2009): 1524-1529.

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1. IvyPanda. "The Development of Organ Transplantation: Commerce Legalizing." June 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-development-of-organ-transplantation-commerce-legalizing/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Development of Organ Transplantation: Commerce Legalizing." June 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-development-of-organ-transplantation-commerce-legalizing/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Development of Organ Transplantation: Commerce Legalizing'. 17 June.

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