The United States is in dire need of transplantable organs. Around 70, 000 Americans are on waiting lists and more than half a dozen die every day of organ failure because the vital organs that they need to continue living are not available. Despite this reality, it is ban in the US to sell organs according to The National Organ Transplant Act 42 U. S. C. § 274e (2002) (NOTA), enacted in 1984. The law states that it is illegal to “knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” The Act was passed without much debate, concluding that no one should profit from the sale of human organs (American Bar Association).
On the other side of the table, the black market for human organs is thriving. It is common sense that if you have the money to buy the organ and not wait in line at the hospital, you would most likely to go half way across the globe to get it. Eight countries are known where human organs are harvested, namely, Kasovo, Mozambique, Israel/Palestine, India, Pakistan, Egypt, China and Moldova. Reports surfaced that Brits auctioned their internal organs − 60,000 British pounds for a kidney, 20,000 for a liver and 20,000 for a cornea. Organ harvesting is also known in Philippines, Togo and Bangladesh.
The problem here is economics. There is a market but supply and demand do not meet. If there is a willing buyer and seller it means organ selling is beneficial for both parties. In fact, this is the strongest argument why the sale of human organs should be legalized. If this trade is permitted, there will be an increase supply of vital organs necessary to prolong the lives of many ailing individuals. Some may also argue that it is the person’s discretion how he/she should dispose of his/her body parts. This is the same as when people choose to engage in dangerous profession such as fire fighting, bomb disposal, among others. And just the same, they should be compensated. The fact that is happening, the best thing that the government can do is to regulate the market to avoid exploitation and unsafe practice. Various reports show that citizens of poor countries’ (like the Philippines, Turkey, India and South America) common organ buyers are from Europe and North America. In America alone, 200 to 300 Americans buy organs to third world countries each year. If this business is regulated, the ethical issues could be controlled and monitored.
Those who argue against organ sales pointed out that the practice is exploitative and that it is revolting to any society when bodies are being commoditized (Taylor, 2005). As a response, society permits more exploitative dealings such as poorly paid labor or even child labor (American Bar Association). Organ selling should not be considered more morally disturbing. Related to this is the perception that organ selling places patients who cannot pay in a disadvantageous position. However, this can be solved by the government or a private company who can purchase and distribute the organs in a fair and equitable manner, not allowing directed donations.
Another argument is that it defeats the value of people’s altruism to donate organ to save the life of another individual (Scarpa, 2008). However, this is not true as evident in the blood market. When the states decided to sale of blood, the overall blood supply drops because the drop off in voluntary donations was greater than the increase in paid donations (Healy, 2006). However, this argument is plausible because of the manipulative power of money. But it can be claimed that people who volunteer to donate their organs are subject to more manipulation or pressure from their family or loved ones because of personal ties.
Many fear that paying for the organ will further raise the transplant cost for the recipient. However, supporters of the selling of the organs said that it would boost the supply therefore lowering the cost for the entire transplant program.
The shortage of donor organs leads to many dying patients in hospital. If the government can do something about it, why not make a stand and legalize the trade?
Healy, Kieran. (2006). Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs. Chicago: UCP.
Scarpa, Silvia. (2008). Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery. NY: Oxford University Press.
Shapiro, Robyn. Legal Issues in Payment of Living Donors for Solid Organs. American Bar Association. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from http://www.abanet.org/irr/hr/spring03/livingdonors.html.
Taylor, James Stacey. (2005). Stakes and Kidneys: Why Markets in Human Body Parts Are Morally Imperative. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.