RESEARCH : Selling Human Organs
ARTICLE 1 :
Should people be allowed to sell their organs? Currently, exchanging organs for money or other "valuable considerations" is illegal, but some members of the medical and business communities would like to change that. One of those is the American Medical Association's influential Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. Convinced that the balance of moral and ethical concerns favors the ability to sell organs, they would like the laws to change, and the AMA's governing house of delegates is scheduled to vote in June on whether to support a pilot program. The American Society of Transplant Surgeons has already endorsed giving money for cadaveric organs to the families of the deceased. There are two primary arguments normally offered in favor of allowing the sale of organs. First is the fact that a person's organs belong to them and that a person should be able to do with them as they wish. Second, the shortage of organs available for transplantation is so great that more radical solutions for getting additional organs are needed - and if paying for them will result in more organs, then this is justified. A number of arguments against selling organs get bandied about, but there are two which lie behind most of the others and which address both of the above arguments. The first involves the concern with how selling organs leads to the commodification of human bodies, and the second is the concern with the exploitation of the poor for the benefit of the rich. These are difficult arguments to explain and are not convincing to everyone, but they cut to the heart of what we want our society ultimately to be like. As to the issue of commodification, it is not clear that just because the only possible "owner" of an organ is the person in whose body it exists that, therefore, this same person should also be able to sell it to the highest bidder. You own your body as a whole as well, but does that mean you can sell yourself into slavery? Of course not - human beings cannot be made into commodities like that. There are even restrictions on how a person can sell their labor, such as laws concerning minimum wages. A commodity is something that "can be turned to commercial or other advantage." A person certainly uses their body for themselves and their own benefit, but they cannot turn that body over to others for their own permanent use and benefit. Restrictions on the ability to transfer ownership and control are not only common, but in fact inherent in how society defines ownership in the first place. In modern society, the "ownership" a person exercises over their body is treated as a unique sort in that it is not an ownership which can be legally transferred to any other party. Merely observing that you "own" something does not also confer the absolute right to transfer ownership and control to anyone else and in any manner you wish. An important social reason why the ability to transfer "ownership" of one's own body is so restricted is because of the ways in which it is readily exploitable against the poor by the rich. Traditionally, rich people have not sold themselves into slavery, the poor have. Rich people are not protected by minimum wage laws, the poor are. And rich people are not protected by laws against selling organs, the poor are. Moreover, in each case, it is the rich who would most benefit by moving laws into the opposite direction, not the poor. There are two possible forms which selling organs could take: selling organs of the living and selling organs of the dead. Because it is difficult to live without your internal organs, the former would be limited just to selling kidneys because people can generally live with only one of two kidneys if necessary. Nevertheless, having a kidney removed is a difficult, painful and dangerous process. It hurts quite a lot, and the pain continues for a while after the surgery. Like any surgery, the process itself is dangerous,...
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