Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Organ Markets: An Ethical Perspective – Part I

As some of you may be aware, I am returning to school to finish what I shouldn’t have stopped many moons ago.

It kinda sucks, dumb classes with economically illiterate professors all around.

Anyway, for my current class (on leadership) I have to write a paper analyzing some social problem from several ethical perspectives.

Being the good market capitalist I am – I knew that it would have something to do with markets and would probably be something that would tweak my liberal prof just a little.  So I chose to look at open market sale of organs for transplantation.

I thought that it was a pretty good analysis of the issue so I thought I would publish it online.  It’s a little long for a blog post, so I’m going to post it in a couple pieces.  Here’s the kickoff:

-note: references will be included in Part III-

There are currently over 100,000 individuals on a waiting list organ for transplant while only 4500 transplants had taken place over the first two months of the year (The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, n.d.). Last year less than 28,000 transplants took place, over 48,000 patients were added to the waiting list and over 6,400 people died.

Last year the American Medical Association [AMA] proposed lobbying Congress to allowing pilot studies of payments for organ donation (O’Reilly, 2008). Economists will sometimes go much further claiming “the law banning human organ sales has the unintended and unfortunate consequence of restricting supply”, the clear message being that legalizing such sales would resolve the current shortages that are experienced (Calandrillo, 2004).

On the other side of the issue, the National Kidney Foundation [NKF] issued a very strong statement denouncing any approach to compensate donors stating:

Offering direct or indirect economic benefits in exchange for organ donation is inconsistent with our values as a society. Any attempt to assign a monetary value to the human body, or body parts, either arbitrarily, or through market forces, diminishes human dignity. By treating the body as property, in the hope of increasing organ supply, we risk devaluating the very human life we seek to save. (2003)

The NKF reaction is not uncommon; many people may have such a visceral response to the thought of allowing someone the ability to sell part of their body, perhaps claiming that it is unethical. This paper will evaluate what ethical perspective would lead one to believe that the sale of organs is unethical and investigate whether alternative perspectives can lead to a different ethical analysis.

Part IIPart III

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