Saturday, November 25, 2006

Organs For Sale?

There were two articles recently about kidney transplants.

The first was a heartwarming one about a 5 way swop of kidneys so that 5 needy patients with 5 willing but otherwise non-compatible donors, would be able to receive suitable kidneys. With the shortage of donors, this unconventional method of transplanting kidneys was a great success. Although it must have been a logistical nightmare, all came together with a resulting happy ending.

The second is about the legalisation of sales of kidneys in Iran. This is undeniably controversial. The question of ethics comes up. But if you were the patient, & had the means to pay for such a procedure, would you do so? Having said that, would this mean that only those who can afford it will get the kidneys they need while the poorer patients will have to wait till an available donor comes up, or till they die?

As doctors, our first response to such commercialisation of organ transplantation would most likely be that of disapproval. The idea of selling organs for money is a distasteful one. Whenever money comes into play, there is always the chance that eventually, the bottom line will become more important than the patient's health (IMHO, this is already happening - look at how aesthetic medicine is booming & how MHC's have affected the way medicine is practised).

But as humans, how do we condemn someone who only wants to live to see his/her children grow up & grow old with the one they love?

This is a complicated issue indeed, & something that we need to step back & look at from different perspectives...no easy answer to it.

1 comment:

igakunogakusei said...

IMHO, the main problem with legalising the sale of organs is the potential exploitation of the poor. It can be a good thing ONLY if the poor are protected from potential exploitation, and that other measures are taken to alleviate poverty and eliminate the need for selling organs for money.

The glaring question that still needs addressing is obviously WHY people are driven to selling their organs for money at all. Legalising organ sale doesn't negate the need to tackle poverty. And unless the relevant governments take real steps towards ridding its country of poverrty, then legalisation of whatever is merely a farce, I'm afraid.

Consenting to the sale of one's own organs or not, the way I see it, if people are left with no real choice, then it is no different from coercion, and hence exploitation.