Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Ethics and Organs
The United Nations and Council of Europe recently held a panel to discuss issues surrounding organ trafficking and policies to shut down heartless brokers of the underground market. The business of organ tourism and trafficking is a booming, billion-dollar cash business that exploits the world’s poor. The market’s inventory comes from a variety of sources: some organs are extracted from murdered prisoners in China, others come from people who are desperate enough to sell their organs to support their families or pay a dowry, and still more come thieving doctors. Individual accounts are horrifying—-respected journalists have reported stories about mothers who sell their children’s organs, doctors in New Delhi who deceive their patients by falsely claiming that the patient has an illness which calls for the removal of a kidney, and beggars who sell body parts in order to become more effective.
The panel at the UN discussed free markets and whether one should have the right to make the decision to sell what is rightly theirs. Each panelist opposed this idea, agreeing with Dr. Caplan, who noted early in the discussion that those who sell their organs do not do so out of choice so much as out of desperation and exploitation. Dr. Diflo added that the economic consequences of selling an organ actually tends to worsen both the economic and health conditions of the seller in the long run. He cited a study in India where the average yearly salary of donors was reduced by an average of 30% and the health of most donors declined quickly after their operation.
People who are reduced to selling an organ are not the only ones who are desperate, of course. Two thirds of those on the waiting list to receive an organ have a slim chance of getting one in time. The line is deathly long and the options are limited:
Option 1. Take part in the underground market that exploits the world’s poor by buying or stealing their organs. The black market is now accessible via Google, which makes it fairly easy to take part in this option. It is risky, however, as black market organs are often not tested for diseases, and the “donated” organ, perhaps from a murdered Chinese prisoner, could be rotting from a nasty disease. Additionally, Maude de Boer-Buquichhio, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, stated that international organizations are considering new policies that will criminalize clients of trafficked organs.
Option 2. Continue to wait, and hope that it doesn’t take too long to get your organ in a legitimate manner. Sites such as MatchingDonors.com can help, and some have even had success by posting requests on Craigslist.
For more information about organ harvesting, or to get involved, see Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting at www.DAFOH.org