Among the many contemporary issues that have garnered both media and public attention is the trade in human organs. Civilians, professions, and governments have had diverging opinions regarding the trade and most believe that the trade should be legalized. Noteworthy, it is important to indicate that trading in human organs has become prevalent and has had far-reaching effects, both negative and positive, on the society. Remarkably, trafficking in human organs takes three distinct forms. The most common case is where victims formally/informally agree to sell organs, but are cheated since they are not paid or are paid less than the promised amount. In other cases, traffickers deceive and/or force victims to give up organs and in other cases, the organs are removed without the victim’s knowledge. The continual increase in human trafficking has had devastating effects among illiterate, homeless persons, migrant and immigrant workers. Considering its negativities and positives, the main question that arises therefore is: Should trading in human organs be legalized?
WHO (World Health Organization) outlines that the search for human organs has intensified since 2003 due to the intensification in diseases and the lack of enough organs to meet the prevailing demand. Among the biggest players in the game are Iraq, Indonesia, India, South Africa, and Brazil. Victims earn between $2,000 and $6,000 by selling an organ such as kidney (Boucher, Duquet & Quebec, 2004). Though they are helping save the lives of many persons outright in need of the organs, the lucrative prices serve to exploit the poor. Victims face many risks after the operation while there is little or no post-operation care. Research indicates that despite getting the money, most are left worse-off that they initially were. Legalizing the trade will only serve to compromise the quality of human life, as many nations cannot meet the requirements for conducting the organ removal operation and post removal care.Corruption and poverty are fundamental themes behind people giving up their organs in exchange for money as most donors see it as the only opportunity to make money. In places such as India, individuals use kidneys as security for loans. These are desperate people in need for money. They do not engage in organ trading because they like it but are forced by their economic status (Espejo, 2003). Legalizing the trade will, therefore, see many underprivileged people losing their organs to the affluent and this will consequently create a more problematic society where the poor will be suffering unduly.
Indeed, the determination for survival is a very resilient human nature and one that incapacitates feelings and conjoint connections between people. Truly, the poor can have a strong determination to deliberate themselves from poverty by selling their organs. Boucher, Duquet & Quebec, 2004, refers to this habit as ‘solving a problem through the creation of a much bigger problem .' However, such organs should be donated voluntarily rather than being driven by the motive for money. Selling the organs is an unscrupulous human cannibalism that has no place in healthcare and effective rules must be formulated and implemented. Legalizing the sale of organs is unethical and contravenes professional ethics. There should be no room for legalizing the trade since even the professional code of conduct doctors bars doctors from by professional engaging in money-driven transplants (Espejo, 2003).
Organ replacement is apparently a great accomplishment in medicine. However, those who want the trading in organs legalized evidently want to overexploit the advances made in science and technology. Under no circumstance should human organs be made a market asset (Espejo, 2003). Why should a rational human being offer their body organs in exchange for money to buy an iPhone or iPod? Legalizing the trade is a repulsive action that will benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. Additionally, the organs might become an important business asset and out of reach for common civilians. The poor who are currently benefiting from organ donations will then have to purchase the organs at a stipulated price to obtain the organs. Legalization of the trade will, therefore, generate serious problems especially in developing countries where people’s economic prowess is considerably low.
The black-market for human organs has been in existence for a long period. Some people believe that legalizing the trade will solve the issue of black-markets and stabilize the prices of the organs. However, Espejo, 2003, perceives this as a constrained view of the real issues confronting humanity. Boucher, Duquet & Quebec, 2004, believe that legalizing the trade will attract more players into the sector and soon it will be a booming industry just like the locomotives business. More people will, therefore, lose life as traders search for the priceless organs. Moreover, legalizing the trade will not help solve the demand, as the money incentive might not be appealing enough to lure rational people into donating the organs. Rather than thinking about legalization of the trade, governments should advice people to willingly donate organs and sign dogmas indicating that they are willing to donate their organs once they are dead.
Some studies show that legalizing trade or sale of human organ would help to reduce the risk involved in the black market of the human organs. One of risks includes transmission of diseases when the donor is withholding their medical information. On the other hand, there are cases of compromising recipient’s and the donor’s health. In most cases, when the organs are removed from the donor in and introduced in the black market, the process of removal is not under appropriate medical instruction and supervision. Therefore, such studies show that there is a need to legalize the human organ trade so that professional medical procedures can be utilized. However, an important issue rises; what kind of control an individual could have to show that the human organ trade is happening illegally or legally. Subsequently, there could emerge complex problem that would further accelerate the human trafficking.
If the trade of human organs is legalized, there could be an increase in other illicit activities in an attempt to obtain people’s organ. Knowing that the trade of human organs is legal, criminals can take advantage of the situation and engage in more practices of human trafficking so that they can capitalize on making more profits. Definitely, legalized organ trade would result to high demand of the organs, hence more value of the human organs (Caplan & Council of Europe, 2009). Consequently, illegal activities such as murdering and organ stealing would prevail for the purpose of forceful acquiring of “valuable” organs. For this case, the legalization of organ trade should not be passed in order to reduce the demand for the human organs and, as a result reduce chances of murdering for human organs, organ stealing and kidnapping.
A legalized trade for human organs would also lead to coerced or pressurized donations. There would emerge an economy where the donor will be coerced to trade their due to desperate financial need. In this case, the donor will be engaged in involuntary donation because they will be driven by the need for money rather than their own will. As a result, this would raise the question of whether the donor essentially consented to sell their organs. Another reason why the human organ trade should not be legalized is that the willing donors will be donating their organs to the unknown and unrelated recipients. Several studies indicated that donors are more coerced to donate their organs to the recipient that are known or related to them. This happens because when family members are in need of organs for survival, the pressure to donate that the organ is greater on the family members more than to any possible donor, through the legalized organ trade.
In an argument for the legalization of human organ trade, some people argue that providing of organ through unselfish donation or trade help to save the life of a person who is in need of the organ. Therefore, trading of human organs cannot be termed as violation of human dignity. They argue that people who sell their organs benefits the community at large and specifically the person who is in need of such organ (Scheper-Hughes, 2002). However, trading human organs is also morally and ethically unaccepted. Traditionally, human rights and medical association groups from every part of the world have been condemning the selling and buying of human organs. For example, the WHO (World Health Organization) termed trading of human organs as violation of human dignity and human rights. Some specialists in the medical profession also argues that it is unethical and immoral to trade human organs as “human spare parts” (Caplan & Council of Europe, 2009). According to the ICHPHHR (International Commission of Health Professionals for Health and Human Rights), it is “vile, deplorable and morally reprehensible development” to sell or buy human organs. In addition, if it is all about saving person’s life, the practice could be done voluntarily because it is unethical and immoral to be compensated for saving somebody’s life.
In conclusion, the problem of human trafficking requires aggressive efforts to curb this human rights violation and international crime, by addressing the causes of the problem. Through the argument above, it is evident that legalizing human organs trade does not only facilitate human trafficking, but also various activities that violate human rights. For example, in the end, legalizing this trade will only be benefiting the rich, and thus exploiting the poor. Selling human organs will not make any difference from a prostitute selling her body for money. Therefore, it is immoral and unethical idea; donors should be allowed to give their organs out of the goodness of their heart. To solve the problem of the insufficient human organs, a centralized organ donation bank should be established to allow voluntary donation of human organs. This body should also develop infrastructure that ensures legal availability of donor organs. Furthermore, an intervention is needed to ensure that there is vigorous public awareness campaign on emphasizing the significance of donating organs. Permitting selling and buying of organs will develop widespread crime and other social problems, and, therefore, should not be legalized.
Boucher, D., Duquet, D., & Québec (Province) (2004). Organ donation and transplantation: Ethical dilemmas due to shortage. Sainte-Foy, Qué: Commission de l'éthique, de la Science et de la technologie.
Caplan, A. L., & Council of Europe (2009). Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs: Joint Council of Europe/United Nations study. France: Council of Europe/United Nations.
Espejo, R. (2003). Biomedical ethics: Opposing viewpoints. San Diego, Calif: Greenhaven Press.
Price, D. P. (2009). Human tissue in transplantation and research: A model legal and ethical donation framework. Cambridge [U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Scheper-Hughes, N. (2002). “The Global Traffic in Human Organs” Current Anthropology Vol 41, No 2. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/CA/journal/issues/v41n2/002001/0 02001.text. html: 07/05/2014