If Only I Had a Heart: The Commercialization of Organ Donations

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When asked whether the selling of human organs is controversial, the average person would say that putting a price on organs is ethically and morally wrong. The ban on organ sales has taken effect since The World Medical Association’s Medical Assembly in 1987 (Ram). In addition to the morality of the situation, many people argued that the commercialization was increasing incidents of human trafficking in order to sell the victims organs. Although many people agree that donating organs to transplant candidates is vital for their survival, many do not see eye to eye when it comes to financial compensation in exchange for those organs. When it comes to organ donations, more organs are needed for people on the transplant list.

Statistics on the UNOS website showed that as of January 2019, 114,000 people were in need of a lifesaving organ transplant. Furthermore, 75,000 people are on the active waiting list. Yet, there are only approximately 16,000 people who donated during the 2018-2019 year. Out of those donors, 82% of them were from the deceased. In other words, only a small percentage of people every year willingly donate their organs while alive. The American Transplant Foundation reported that 21 people die everyday waiting for an organ transplant.

However, Legalizing the commercialization under health organizations will not only increase the likeness of survival for transplant candidates but will also solve the issue of underground organ trafficking. In general, many people are interested to gain profit selling their organs. They are more likely to donate their organs if it improves their personal welfare. As an example, In Lisa Gerson article Human Harvest, she describes women who had trouble donating their eggs as “Frustrated and …desperate.” Generally, the human mind follows a reward system. If people do not feel that they are benefiting from a certain cause, they will not engage in the activity. This shows that the main motive for egg donors is compensation in return. This mindset is similar to those who do not want to donate their organs. The majority of people will not be willing to donate if they do not see anything in return.

Before women were able to harvest their eggs for compensation, the main reason why they donated was that they had a sibling or friend who could not have children of their own. They found an ulterior motive to donate their eggs which is why they donated their eggs without anything in return. Because most people do not have a reason to donate their organs, a considerable motive in exchange for their organs would be reimbursement. Parallel to organ donation, egg donors are willing to go through a difficult process in exchange for compensation.

A Stanford study showed the standard process of egg donation. The process consists of two phases. In the first phase, “donors receive a series of hormonal drugs which cause the ovaries to produce multiple [10-15] eggs during one menstrual cycle.” And during stage two, the eggs are extracted from the uterus using a needle-like instrument. Similar to many other medical operations, donating eggs may cause side effects and requires a recovery period. Nevertheless, many women opt to harvest their eggs notwithstanding the commitment and complications because they gain up to $20,000 by harvesting. The same reasoning holds true when it comes to organ selling. Despite the preconception that selling organs is morally wrong, people are inclined to undertake the commercialization while saving numerous of lives. Adding to the fact that people are willing to sell their organs for profit, many desired to learn more about organ sales.

A popular question floating around search engines worldwide is: “How much does it cost to sell my kidney?”. Most likely, after browsers found out that the commercialization of organs was illegal, they stopped looking into organ transplants because they did not have any ulterior motive to donate. Another possibility that may happen is that the person will consider selling their organs through an illegal traffic trade, otherwise known as the black market. Illegal exchanges in the black market make it difficult for organs to be supplied to organ transplant candidates. Instead, a potential life-saving organ ends up with a person who does not gain any physical benefits. People who are desperate to acquire money from their organs will go through extremities to fulfill their needs. The ban on commercialized organs encourages people to go to these hazardous and unreliable places.

With the legalization under transplants organizations, people who had been willing to sell their organs will give it to a person whose life is dependent on it rather than those who do not. Moving forward, in spite of the many people who donate their organs, the majority of Americans, do not donate the essential organs needed to boost the survival rate of organ transplant candidates. For instance, WHO Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation reported that “45% of American adults are registered as organ donors.” This is roughly 145,000,000 people who are donors (Ram). Although this might sound like a reasonable number, 87% of those donors are organ, eye, and tissue donors, which is the lowest in demand needed for life or death situations.

According to UNOS, kidneys are the most requested organ to treat life-threatening transplants. Next follows livers, pancreases, and hearts. This proves that even with a large organ donor population, it is not enough to increase the likelihood of a candidate surviving. Compensation would encourage people to donate the vital organs needed for transplants therefore more candidates could recieve a transplant. Tiffanie Wen conducted a research study of other countries regarding the percentage of citizens who stated that they supported donations versus the people who officially registered. Wen informs the reader that “There’s a large disparity” between the two.

For example, in the United Kingdom, about 90% of the population said that they were in support of organ donation (Wen). After further investigation, only one third were registered donors (Wen). Based on this finding, it can be implied that many do not see any personal benefits for being organ donors. As has been noted before, humans possess a reward system mindset. During the survey, it can be assumed that the applicants were in denial about whether or not they supported organ donation. Actions are louder than words therefore when only a percentage of the people surveyed donated their organs, the remainder did not have a motive to donate their organs. But they understood that organ donations as a whole is beneficial thus they felt guilty if they said that they did not support the donation.

The commercialization of organs under health organizations will be the motive that persuades people to give away their organs to transplant candidates. Many say that an issue that arises from the commercialization of human organs is human trafficking. Leanne Currie-McGhee the author of “Human Rights in Focus: Human Trafficking” refers to human trafficking as a modern day slavery. The victim usually contacts the human trafficker to sell their organs not knowing their true intentions. Then traffickers use manipulative tactics such as violence and threats in order to get the victim to comply to their terms.

Human trafficking victims are usually forced to do sexual acts. Eventually the victim can end up killed and the trafficker can sell their organs. Tragedies like this, alongside many other concerns, contributed to The World Medical Association’s Medical Assembly banning organ sales(Ram). Although I grant that the legalization of organs sales alone will increase human and organ trafficking incidents, legalizing the commercialization under transplant organizations will cause a significant decrease in organ trafficking in the black market.

People who sell their organs through the black market want to make money effortlessly. But when faced with a choice to sell their organs through a licensed organ transplant organization versus the black market, most will pick the convenient option at a transplant organization. Since the assembly, there were no official statistics that were provided to see the decrease in human trafficking after the policy was made. However, with the commercialization of organs, organ transplant organizations would provide a safe and reliable environment for the organ sellers transactions. Organizations such as The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the American Foundation for Donation and Transplantation are trained to match human organs to people in need.

According to the UNOS official website, UNOS has been a nonprofit organization since March 1984. A small group of transplant professionals wanted to optimize the efficiency of organ placement. Together they were able to create a computerized database which allows donated human organs to be sorted based by location and urgency. This system helped people in need of transplants all across the globe. Unlike the black market, UNOS only allows qualified donors to give their organs. They are not ill intended therefore the organs will go to those in need. That being said, a person will not be able to give an organ that was already taken out of the body.

This will lead to the demise of the black market’s organ trafficking business because donors would want to sell their organs through the transplant organizations since there are less complexities and more benefits. People who want to sell their organs would be less likely to come in contact with human traffickers. Although there are many benefits to legalizing organ sales under transplant organizations, some expressed that transplants will force them to go against their religion. Despite many people conception that religions condone transplants, there is only a handful of religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Shinto faith, and some Native American religions who oppose organ transplants.

But the most prominent religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism do not hold any restrictions towards organ transplants. In fact, a great deal of religions encourages donations rather than only having no-tolerance policy for it. For example, Pope Francis the head of the Catholic Church, thinks of organ donations as a “testimony of love for our neighbor.” This shows that religions see donation as a sign of their participation in the religious community. It is unfortunate that this misbelief can cause a missed opportunity to give an organ (for compensation) to people in need. Therefore, legalizing the commercialization of organs will not prevent people of faith from following their religion rules and practices. The most common complaint that society has against the legalization of organ sales is that it benefits the wealthy.

Some say that the legalization will hurt low class income families while putting a pedestal under high income households . It’s reasonable to believe that the commercialization of organs will put lower income transplant candidates, however when the commercialization is run under transplant organizations, only the people on the bottom of the waitlist will have to pay more. A database determines where a person is in on the waitlist based on the location of the organ, the severity of the condition, and the time of when the transplant was needed (UNOS).When a person is near the bottom of the waitlist, it usually means that their condition is not serious enough to count as life threatening (UNOS).

Thus, it would be sensible for people at the bottom of the waitlist to have a higher price than the ones near the top of the waitlist since their situation is not urgent. Moreover, people tend to overlook that the rich tends to benefit more than the poor in many other fields in medicine. An instance where higher income people benefit more are in nursing homes. Injustices can be seen between different incomes when applying to nursing homes. While it is easier to find a nursing home as a person with a higher income, the process is rather tedious for those with lower income.

The elderly who have lower income, find it difficult to apply to nursing homes that possess creditable representations because their insurance could not afford to go to reliable nursing homes. Nursing homes are not the only place in the medical field where inequalities between income occurs. The commercialization of organs under transplant organizations does not corrupt the waitlist, it ensures that more people will get the organs that are needed for survival. The real injustice of the situation is that numerous organ transplant candidates who had been waiting for an organ for weeks but had to suffer because some people thought it was unfair. To conclude, we should not withhold people from selling their organs under transplant organizations.

Legalizing the commercialization under health organizations will increase the transplant candidates chance at survival while putting a haul on underground organ trafficking simultaneously. Despite the preconception that selling organs is ethically wrong, many people support it and are developing an interest regarding the commercialization. People are willing to sell their organs for profit and with the legalization under transplants organizations would not be forced to do so through hazardous means.

While currently most organ donors do not donate the essential organs needed to organ transplant candidates the commercialization of organs under health organizations will increase the amount of vital organs available to transplant candidates. Furthermore, organ trafficking will go down in record breaking numbers. All in all, the waitlist is only going to get longer. Even with the donors we have now their still not enough to save the majority. Our society wants people to benefit the world. We think to ourselves that people should not have to save a life for exchange in compensation, but it is the only thing that will give transplant candidates a second chance at life. Hope for these people begins with change.


Cite this paper

If Only I Had a Heart: The Commercialization of Organ Donations. (2021, Oct 05). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/if-only-i-had-a-heart-the-commercialization-of-organ-donations/

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