The organ shortage: To market, or not to market?
Organ transplantation is a term that most people are familiar with. When a person develops the need for a new organ either due to an accident or disease, they receive a transplant, right? No, that's not always right. When a person needs a new organ, they usually face a long term struggle that they may never see the end of, at least while they are alive. The demand for transplant organs is a challenging problem that many people are working to solve. Countries all over the world face the organ shortage epidemic, and they all have different laws regarding what can be done to solve it. However, no country has been able to create a successful plan without causing moral and ethical dilemmas.
The organ shortage is at a critical level, and unless a better system is devised, it will continue to get worse. The debate on whether to legalize and regulate organ trade through the free market has become a very controversial issue in the last decade.
The shortage of organs is a problem the increases dramatically every day. In 2010, there were more than 112,000 people on the organ waiting list in the United States. However, there were only 14,507 donors. Of those donors, only 6,564 were "live donors" (UNOS, 2010). Organ trafficking is rising in popularity due to the constant increase in demand for organs and the continuous decrease in supply. Trafficking is the illegal trade of human organs such as the heart, liver, and, most commonly, the kidneys which are used for transplantation. Think about that one show or movie where an unsuspecting person goes out for a drink while on a business trip in a foreign country, then wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, in agonizing pain, and some badly done up stitches in their back- that's organ trafficking. Every year, about 70,000 kidneys are transplanted worldwide. Of those 70,000, it is estimated that anywhere from 7,000 to 15,000 of them are involved in organ trafficking (Human Trafficking Project). Another solution, which is also illegal, that has been gaining popularity is trade through the free market. The free market is a market where prices are determined by supply and demand. Many people who need an organ transplant seek a donor through the free market, and then pay them for an organ. Currently, countries all over the world are debating whether a legal organ market should be established in order to address the need for a solution to the organ shortage.
There are hundreds of reasons for debate in regards to this issue. The moral, ethical, and law based debates are different in every country. One of the most commonly stated arguments against organ sale is that legalization of a human organ market is would exploit poor people and take further advantage of those who are underprivileged. Another popular debate is that the sale of human organs would take the integrity out of organ transplants because it would commodify the human body. These arguments are countered by people who believe that an organ market should be established not only to facilitate an increase of available organs, but also because donors are the only people in the transplantation process who aren't paid. Supporters also believe legalizing a system of financial gain in exchange for organs is the only way the organ shortage can be sufficiently reduced, if not completely eradicated. Being a good example for once, Iran is used as a model of how this sort of market could be successful. Iran has an organ market where they pay their citizens to donate, and therefore they don't have a waiting list for kidneys (Dubner, 2008). Other countries are also beginning to develop similar systems. Even with examples of success with organ markets, the pros and cons are endlessly debated, usually without much of an outcome to show.
The first common argument, that an organ market will exploit the poor, is a claim found in almost every article about this topic. In the article “The Selling...
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