Transplantation medicine has widely developed to become the most challenging and very complex disciplines in modern medicine. Organ transplantation is the removal of body parts from a living or dead body, the donor, and then the organ removed is inserted into a living body- recipient- for medical purposes. There is a wide range of organs that can be transplanted. They include kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, pancreas, thymus, and intestines. In addition, there are tissues that can be transplanted such as bones, cornea, tendons, veins, heart valves, and skins.
However, the kidneys have been the most transplanted organs around the world. Tissues are normally recovered from the donors who are living or simply brain dead; this is done when the donor’s heart beat stops for at least twenty four hours. Tissue transplant is also favored by the fact that the tissue can be refrigerated for five years.
Human tissues and organ transplantations has become very controversial in the modern science and societal views. It has raised a lot of bioethical issues that include the need to define when one is termed as dead, the authority for transplant of organs or tissues, organ trafficking and the transaction or payment for the organs to be transplanted. Therefore, despite the benefits that can be translated from implantation science, sale and buying of organ transplant is unethical and should be regulated strictly across board by international groups such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to studies by Munson (2004, p. 37), there is an indication that there is an increase in the world market for organs due to increased demand for the organs which has led to the emergence of more donors. Therefore, these studies show that most of these organ donors come from the most poor parts of the world to the strong economies thus manipulation and abduction of ‘donors’ by scrupulous sellers who have increased in the third world countries. According to Parr and Mize (2001, p. 86), poor people have been selling one of their kidneys in India so as to cover for their various needs. The buyers often come from the rich Arabian Gulf. On the other hand the donor and the recipient have private arrangements, where the donor pretends to be the relative of the recipient for the doctors to accept transplanting. Therefore there is no forceful acquisition of organ from the donor in this case and the donor is freely willing to help another person at a fee (Munson, 2004, p. 48).
In the US, there is a project being initiated by the American Medical Association (AMA) that is prospected to be buying and selling of the human organs (Parr & Mize, 2001, p. 70). This kind of an organization that is known and regulated by the government is better than individual sellers or brokers in the free market who sort out for the donors and the organs themselves for sale. This project was designed to enable those who would be willing to sign contracts while they are alive that their body organs could be used when they die for organ transplant (Whetstine, Streat, Darwin & Crippen, 2005, p. 539). This project was set up because people in America have refused to donate freely their organs but can donate their organs to save lives if some compensation is given.
There should be increased support and call for altruistic donation as there is in the blood donation. Using modern communication, websites have been developed to facilitate this ‘Good Samaritan’ form of donation as the studies have shown that those championing against scrupulous dealing and lack of respect of the human body are willing to freely donate their organs for unknown recipients (Finn, 2000, p. 28). On the other hand, even for the altruistic donors, someone has to cover for their medical bills during transplant and also their transport to the desired hospital in this case there must be some compensation, therefore it is not that it is absolutely free (Whetstine et al, 2005, p. 541).
The treatment of human body and organs as market commodities violates the human dignity. There is a distinguishing line between covering the donor’s expenses and making profits. Pope Pius XII requested faithful to refuse any form of compensation when one donates blood, tissues or organs, terming human life and body as a gift from God and should not be traded. There are very many useful organs and tissues that could have saved lives that on the other hand have gone to waste simply because the person had not accepted nor refused his body organs to be used for transplant (Finn, 2001, p. 128). In addition, transplanting an organ from the dead donor does not cause any harm to the donor after death while it can benefit the living. There are countries that have set up presumed consent legislation such as in Belgium and France.
Selling and buying also exploits human ignorance and weakness of the poor people who are forced to sell their body organs at a very low price as $700 for a kidney just to be able to feed their families. This is exploitation which should not be allowed by any authority. Transplant tourism has also increased and has led to the luring of very weak groups to selling their body parts with false promises from the recipients (Munson, 2004, p. 89). The governments should be blamed for the exploitation of its people by other people for it has the mandate to protect its citizens. However, when it comes to the price for the body organ the price is limitless and the donor and the recipient agreement is subject to their own conscious thus it should not be treated as monetary exploitation for there is no fixed organ price.
Increased abduction and holding captive of the donors in some countries have been reported thus raising the question on the safety of the donor since there are recipients who do not mind the source of the organ for transplant (Munson, 2004, p. 75). There is no transplant that is done by non medical expert, therefore, the safety of the donor is taken care by the medical personnel in which the organ is transplanted this is because it is a complex and very sensitive exercise and the organ must be in good condition for it to be used.
In conclusion, there are very many ethical issues that surrounds the sale and buying of tissues and organs. These issues are centered on the donor, the recipient, the means for procuring the organs, the allocation of resources by various governments, and world organizations. All these issues have been abused in many ways. There is need for proper laws protecting the vulnerable from being exploited and also in the facilitation of these positive medical science techniques that can be used to save lives and restoring human dignity in all aspects of human life.
Whetstine, L., Streat, S., Darwin, M. & Crippen, D. (2005). Pro/con ethics debate: when is dead really dead. Critical Care, 9 (6), 538-542
Finn, R. (2000). Organ Transplants: Making the Most of Your Gift of Life. New York: Patient Centered Guide
Parr, E. & Mize, J. (2001). Coping with an Organ Transplant. London: Avery
Munson, R. (2004). Raising the dead: Organ transplants, ethics, and society. New York: OUP