The Sale of Human Organs
If your loved one was faced with a life or death situation would you do everything in your power to help them. The easy answer to this would be yes but thousands of people are dying every year because there just aren’t enough organs to be transplanted. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals in need of life-saving organ transplants, but the wait list is so long, that human organ sales should be legal. This has the potential to allow patients to look for organs of a similar match, potentially saving their lives in a much shorter amount of time with an overall long-term reduction in medical costs. The history of human organ transplant is an epic journey to understand how the human body works and ways to help humans live longer. The curiosity of transplant dated all the back before modern medical in 9th century BC, where individuals sewed animal parts together. Then in 4th century BC Chinese texts describe Tsin Yue-Jen, a surgeon who switches the hearts of two people. This is the first documentation of a human transplant. In 1878, the first bone to bone transplant took place. In 1909, the first recorded animal to human kidney transplant took place.
The animal that was used was a rabbit. This was a huge success but the patient died two weeks later. In the 2000 more than 300,000 Americans are on dialysis, and most of them could benefit from transplants if organs were available. In 2003, around 18 people a die each day on the waiting list. We have come a long way with modern medicine but we can reduce the number of people dying on the waiting list. The waiting game is the worse kind of game to play. You will go to numerous appointments and hundreds of rounds of dialysis waiting for an organ while your family watches you fade away. There are more than 80,000 people in the U.S. on the United Network for Organ waiting list. But just more than 13,000 kidneys are donated. Donated either by living or deceased donors every year, not nearly enough to provide kidneys for all those waiting on the list. In 2010 16,517 people received kidney transplants, while 4,530 people died waiting. Slabbert, M (2010) In an article from a 2005 edition of Kidney International, Drs. Eli and Amy Friedman say “that as many as 100,000 people could be saved annually by introducing a regulated kidney market.” And that number just continues to rise. Right now in the United States a person is added to the list every 11 minutes which would be 130 people a day. That is a huge increase just from 20 years ago. People are living longer and modern medicine has made this possible. Back in the 1970’s drugs were developed to cut down the risk of organ rejection. This was a huge break through. The fact is that a large portion of those on the waiting list would not live to have their much-needed transplants is the bottom line. Also fatal traffic accidents have decreased where as the emergency room is saving more people than in the past. This is creating a shortage of donors and there is a huge demand for organs, and something must be done about it. Organs are the pathway to life. Organs are a group of tissue all working together to perform a task like pumping blood around the body. And organs are equipped to take on 10 times it’s capability. This is huge, the human body can withstand a lot of wear and tear.
This is what they are made for. But sadly organs over time deteriorate along with the rest of the human body. But sometimes disease or genetics may ultimately destroy one specific organ while the rest of your body remains relatively healthy. This is were organ transplant would come in. A deceased donation could save up to eight people. According to Donate-A-Life America “In order for a person to become and organ donor, blood and oxygen must flow through the organs until the of recovery to ensure vitality This requires that a person die under circumstances that have resulted in an irreparable neurological injury, usually from massive trauma to the brain such as aneurysm, stroke or automobile accident. Only after all efforts to save the patient’s life have been exhausted tests are performed to confirm the absence of brain or brain stem activity, and brain death has been declared, is donation a possibility.” This is one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone, life. But what if we look at it in the sense that you can give life to someone and in return receive a monetary exchange. Do you think more people would help save a life…I do. We all want to think people are good in nature and they would do anything to help someone in need. But in reality people have a hard time giving something as personal as an organ to someone they don’t even know without receiving something in return. According to Benjamin E. Hippen, a transplant nephrologist “There are fewer organs from living donors than one might wish for because too few people are altruistic enough to undergo surgery for someone they don’t know.” With the economy where it is today receiving compensation for donating an organ to save someone’s life seems like a win-win situation. American’s have donated millions to cancer awareness every year and over 90 million people have donated blood to help their fellow American. American’s can receive a monetary sum for the donation of their semen and human eggs.
They are giving a part of themselves to someone else to create life. So in turn selling your organ would basically save another life. What is the difference? In the U.S., a black market for human organs does exist. It usually involves bodies about to be cremated. A black market broker may enter into a financial arrangement with a dirty funeral home director and carve up the bodies before they’re cremated. This is not regulated at all and is all about the money. The organs may be from a body with an infectious disease, but is sold with documents that claim a different cause of death or medical history. “Illegally obtained organs from just one body has been known to reach 90 tissue recipients. If legalized and regulated the patient and donor would be treated by a board certified surgeon and would be regulated by the American Medical Board. This in turn would become safer and cut down on the illegal sale and trafficking of human organs.” Gregory, Anthony (2011) The Atlantic. In one high-profile case, Michael Mastromarino, an oral surgeon in New York, opened Biomedical Tissue Services with an embalmer, Joseph Nicelli, in 2000. For many years, they harvested human tissue from bodies provided by funeral homes and sold it to research facilities.
They were eventually arrested and convicted of numerous crimes. This is an issue that needs to be taken care of. This county needs to have a regulated organ donation put into place so people don’t have to rely on criminals to save their loved one life. With the Untied States in the midst of change in health care, spending billions on people waiting of the transplant list seems illogical. The cost of health care expenditures in 2010, neared $2.6 trillion, over ten times the $256 billion spent in 1980. The average stay on the waiting list 3-5 years. And during this time the patient is likely in and out of the hospital racking up medical bills. So the sooner that they can get a donor the sooner they can get their life back and on the road to becoming a healthier individual. Patients who have a transplant generally live longer than patients who stay on dialysis. The transplanted kidney works 24 hours a day to remove 50-85% of the total waste your body generates. Dialysis on the other hand only removes 15% of total waste and only when on the dialysis machine. According to the annual report of the Canadian Organ Replacement Registry “Dialysis treatment is about $60,000 per person annually and requires patients to be hooked up to a machine three times a week for four hours at a time. By comparison, a kidney transplant costs about $23,000, and the anti-rejection drugs that recipients take cost another $6,000 a year.” This is a significant reduction annually. In the end getting a transplant would reduce health care costs over all and keep people healthier. The cost of health care is on the rise and will only get worse. When you think about it a different way there is a surplus of organs. In third world countries, there are people willing to do anything for money for their family. They are willing to sell a kidney for $1000 and they will then use the money towards food and clothing. A recent case study by doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York examined the ethical issues posed by transplant tourism, an offshoot of medical tourism, which focuses solely on transplantation surgery.
Many American transplant professionals frown on the practice of transplant tourism where patients travel to countries such as China, India, and the Philippines for their transplantation. “Medical tourism has been on the rise as demand for organs outpaces supply and health care costs in the United States skyrocket”, Dr. Thomas Schiano and Rosamond Rhodes of Mount Sinai School of Medicine reported in Liver Transplantation. This is a dangerous gamble but people will do what they have to save their loved one life. In China many of the “donors” come from executed prisoners and the appropriate tests are not followed. Also they aren’t conducting follow up appointments with these traveling patients so they are at extremely high risk of infection. This is a very interesting point because if people are traveling to another country to get an organ but become ill after, our health care is paying for it. So therefore if the sale of organs was legal in the Untied States, individuals could stay in the country to get the transplant and receive treatment here. And overall this would cost the health care system less money. Schiano and Rhodes created some basic ethical principles. They based their ideas on the understanding that physicians have a “professional obligation to promote the good of patients” as well as a “professional responsibility to adhere to medicine’s commitment to nonjudgmental regard.” Schiano said that he’d rather have more information about centers abroad before referring patients there. He does, however, recommend that patients travel to other areas in the U.S. to get their transplant if they live in high-demand areas such as New York or California. There are definitely differences in how fast you would receive in organ just based on your geographic location. Regulating the sale of human organs would hurt the black market and would cut down on criminal activity on the less fortunate.
The federal ban on organ sales dates back to 1983, when Virginia physician Dr. H. Barry Jacobs proposed buying kidneys and selling them to whomever could afford to buy. His plan was met with widespread outrage. In Congress, then-Rep. Al Gore introduced legislation banning the sale of organs. The bill became law in 1984. Dr. Matas, researcher for the University of Minnesota, envisions a plan where donors would be able to sell their kidneys. A set price, he says, could be established by the government and paid by the recipient’s insurance, typically Medicare. The kidney would go to whoever is at the top of the waiting list, rich or poor. Potential sellers would be medically and psychologically screened to make sure they are suitable donors. Afterwards, they would be tracked by the government to see what impact the kidney sale had on their life and overall health. His reasoning is simple in that he asks the question of why is safe to donate a kidney to a loved one out of compassion but wrong to donate to fellow man for money. There have been to talks to have different incentives other than money like life-time health insurance for the donation of a kidney.
Deep down inside most of us want to do good and better the world. We all watch the news and think to ourselves I wish I could do something to help. People are dying everyday because of the shortage of organs and the United States is spending millions on keeping these people on the waiting list. I personally would hate to be the person to tell the person in end-stage renal failure that they will die because it is illegal to sell a kidney. If this is a matter of life and death then why are our morals in the wrong place. People deserve a chance at life and that chance can come from someone else. This would be the greatest gift you could good and even greater to receive.