Commodification of Human Organs

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Organ transplantation is an important medical practice able to save millions of lives including terminal patients. That is why organ transplantology is legalized in a large number of countries throughout the world having become a common practice. Despite the legalization, very often this life-saving medical procedure becomes a cause of a number of media scandals. That is because of ethical aspects involved in the process of organ selling. Many academic studies agree that human organs should not be commodified as this practice simply violates human dignity. There is also a large number of studies that consider commodification of human organs to be an important practice able to solve the problem of organs shortage. However, the commodification of human organs is an extremely dangerous practice that creates a strong trend of forced organ harvesting from completely healthy people. The aim of this research paper is to consider both positions on this issue in order to illustrate why it is inappropriate from both social and health perspectives to consider human organs as a commodity.

Premise One: Forced Organ Harvesting

Commercialization of organ sales and the consequences of this practice are important aspects of the study by Danovitch and Delmonico. The authors present a number of arguments against turning human organs into a commodity. In the modern world, the number of vital organs failures is increasing every day mainly because of a wide-spread trend of unhealthy diet supported by advertising. As a result of the increased vital organs failures, the demand for organs becomes stronger. However, this growing demand is not fully satisfied because of unavailability of the organs that can be transplanted effectively with no harm to the patients as well as taken from donors. Basically, it creates a market where organs are taken from healthy people without their permission. For example, in 1989, in London there was a case of the illegal transplantation of a human kidney form a Turkish impecunious donor (Danovitch and Delmonico 388). The donor was forced to sell his body part being persuaded in the expediency of this deal. From the legal and ethical perspectives, this case can be considered as a criminal act that violates human rights and has a considerable negative impact on human dignity. Thus, the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom considered the medical staff involved in the translation of a kidney to be guilty, and commercial dealing in human organs had been criminalized in the country.

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In the United States, the situation is the same as there is also a prohibition of organ sales. The main reason for this is that when it comes to the mass selling of human organs, it becomes extremely difficult to regulate this activity. Despite this, Danovitch and Delmonico note that the country faces a growing desire of individuals to make money selling their organs such as liver, pancreas, and kidneys (Danovitch and Delmonico 388). This trend is directly linked to the economic instability in the United States as well as the majority of other countries throughout the world. Being allowed to sell their organs, people consider this practice as an acceptable substitution to the standard ways of making money such as going to work or starting a business. It is also important to note that such a substitution would be extremely attractive for the individuals living below poverty line. Moreover, this segment of the population often suffers from chronic illnesses that harm not only donors but also patients. According to the research of Danovitch and Delmonico, “the poor medical health of donors leads to a high incidence of serious infections in recipients of vended organs” (Danovitch and Delmonico 387). Thus, it is evident that it is extremely dangerous to consider human organs as a commodity as it can have a large number of implications for everyone involved. This basically proves the main argument of the research paper that transplantation has to be highly regulated in order to avoid commodification of human organs.

Premise Two: Exploitation of Poor People

Another research conducted by Rajalakshmi states that considering human organs form commercial perspective has a negative impact on the global health (Rajalakshmi 98). That is because of the fact that commercialization of human organs supports the development of illegal sources of organs for transplantation. The average waiting time when it comes to organs transplantation is three years (Rajalakshmi 98). During this time, those people who have an urgent need for transplantation face high chances of death. This basically creates organ trafficking as wealthy patients are willing to pay more to receive the required organ as soon as possible. From the perspectives of equality, this approach violates human rights. It is possible to suggest that in case of organ trafficking further development in the future, we will face a number of social and ethical challenges such as depreciation of human life and social inequality that can potentially slow down the human progress for years.

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Rajalakshmi also states that despite all the regulations that prohibit selling human organs there is still a room for commercialization. She explains that “the reason for commercialized dealing in transplantation of human organs is the scarcity of the organ required for transplantation and the selfishness attitude of the recipient and his family to save the life of the recipient at the cost of exploitation of the poor people” (Rajalakshmi 103). This fact illustrates that despite all the progress, there is still a room for social inequality in the modern society. The ongoing development of the inequality is supported by the repeated economic downturns. As a result, it is possible to suggest that in case of legalization of commercial trade of human organs, the exploitation of poor people will dramatically increase leading to the development of social inequality.

Moral Support: Utilitarianism

Commercialization of human organs leads to the process when one individual has the right to harm another one in order to satisfy personal needs. This approach can be defined as highly unethical and unsustainable. According to a moral theory called Utilitarianism, no action should harm another individual or a group of individuals because people are all equal. However, it is important to note that Utilitarianism considers egoism to be an appropriate type of behavior unless it discriminates others. If applied to the topic of this research, Utilitarianism can allow commercialization of human organs only in case if this process leads to good results for everyone involved – a patient and a donor. However, it is evident from the research studies of Danovitch and Delmonico, and Rajalakshmi that there is no way of benefiting one without affecting another when it comes to considering human organs as a commodity. Commercialization of human organs is simply the act of stealing. According to Utilitarianism, stealing is considered to be wrong as it impacts the long-term stability of the individuals who use possessions to achieve particular goals. That is why this moral theory supports the argument of this research paper that commodification of human organs is an unacceptable practice.

Opposing Argument: Organ Shortage Crisis

There is a number of research studies that reveal the other side of the problem and state that commodification of human organs should be considered not as a problem but as an effective solution able to save millions of lives annually. One of such research studies is the work of Abouna that states that there is a growing organ shortage crisis requiring an urgent solution.

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During the last 10 years, the demand for human organs has doubled (Abouna 3). That is why we face an urgent need to find a solution for patients whose life depends on transplantation. According to the author, the main goal of medicine including transplantology is to save lives. That is why we have to consider all the possibilities that can help us to decrease mortality rates. However, prohibition of human organs selling impacts the ability of emergency medicine to stay as effective as it could be with the sufficient availability of donor organs. “As a result, there has been a major increase in the number of patients on transplant waiting lists as well as in the number of patients dying while on the waiting list” (Abouna 3). The author states that the development of an altruistic donation system can become an effective solution able to save approximately 6,300 patients annually in the United States alone.


The idea of creating an altruistic donation system can be good only in a society where equality is considered to be the highest value. However, the modern society does not have the required development level to ensure that the idea will be effective. An altruistic donation system will ultimately create a business where human organs are considered a commodity. Thus, millions of patients will be saved at the expense of innocent lives of healthy donors. That is why the main solution when it comes to transplantology is the development of advanced technologies such as medical 3D printing able to replace human organs.

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