Term Paper: Organ Donation

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[. . .] There are also some other criteria which determine who should receive organs and in what order. In an era where necessary organs are in such short supply, it is not just the amount of time someone has waited on the list that indicates if they should receive the transplant. One important question is why the initial organ has failed. If the person requires a transplant because of disease, then the public believes that they are more worthy of receiving that organ transplant (Ethics 16). If, however, the person needs a new organ because of poor life choices, such as needing a liver because of alcoholism, the public believes that they should not get the organ before someone who seems to be more deserving. This meritocracy is related to who is most deserving of the transplant. The number of potential life years gained by the organ transplant is another item for discussion (Ethics 17). Someone's age is one determinant of this potential gain. A younger person is more likely to get an organ than an elderly person who hasn't as much life to live as the former. Also, someone who has already had an organ transplant but either requires a new one due to rejection by the body or a new organ failure will be less likely to receive the necessary transplant.

There is a sad statement of fact which otherwise alters the idea of organs received based on their merit. Nearly a third of the people currently on the waiting list for organ transplants are classified as "inactive," meaning that even if an organ becomes available, the person will not receive the organ (Stein). Either these people are too sick to receive the organ, are determined to not be sick enough, or for some other often unexplained reason have been deemed ineligible. One of the reasons for this is if a person does not have enough money to pay for post-operative care and their insurance will not cover the cost; there is a good chance that they will be labeled "inactive." This is another case of the wealthy having a decided advantage in the acquisition of needed organs than those in similar straights who do not have the same financial resources at their disposal.

Although the process of organ transplantation is ethical, there are components of the program which require reform. There have been several recent occasions where prison inmates have received organ transplants from anonymous donation. A public outcry went up in January of 2010 in the state of California when a prisoner who was in jail for committing a violent crime received a heart transplant. The operation as well as the post-operative lifetime care that the criminal has received and will receive in the future will wind up costing California taxpayers nearly $1 million (Perry). It has been determined that inmates have a constitutional right to healthcare and often receive better medical treatment than other similarly stationed but law-abiding citizens can hope to afford. With the threat of lawsuits decrying the lack of civil rights, criminals often move up higher on the list of organ recipients and receive their transplants more quickly (Perry). Violent criminals are receive organs which, given the shortage of available organs, makes it a guarantee that someone else on the outside of the prison walls will, in fact, die.

Harvesting living organs usually occurs when a loved one volunteers to give his or her body part to someone they care about. Some people who are extremely generous give up a spare organ, like a kidney or a lung with no particular recipient in mind. These people are rare indeed. Were there more of these types of donors, the organ shortage would be greatly alleviated. There are some companies who will pay individuals for their extra organs, a process which many people consider to be highly unethical. Until a few years ago, people could go online and auction their healthy organs to the highest bidder, something that has been made unlawful. According to the Center for Bioethics:

Most experts argue that buying and selling human organs is an immoral and disrespectful practice. The moral objection raised most often argues that selling organs will appeal to the socioeconomically disadvantaged (people who are poor, uneducated, live in a depressed area, etc.) and these groups will be unfairly pressured to sell their organs by the promise of money. This pressure could also cause people to overlook the possible drawbacks in favor of cash incentives (Ethics 26).

The United States has made the selling and buying of human organs illegal since 1984. The National Organ Transplant Act made it illegal for someone to benefit financially from the donation of a kidney. This is designed to ensure that the very wealthy do not receive organs before poorer people who are similarly in need. Even after the passage of the National Organ Transplant Act, the ability of the wealthy to acquire organs far faster than their less financially fortunate counterparts is still an issue for concern to both humanitarians and ethical persons alike.

There are several negative potential consequences of organ donation and transplantation. The first and most possible is that the body could reject the newly acquired organ. The actual definition of organ rejection is "the process where the body fights off the newly implanted organ" (Ethics 8). The body, instead of recognizing the new organ as a part of the body sees it as a bacteria and creates antibodies to destroy the new organ. Not only is the patient still in need of a functioning organ, but the organ that they have received has been wasted. In order to combat the body rejecting a transplanted organ, doctors will prescribe their patients some very strong immunosuppressant medications which will to prevent the creation of these extra antibodies which attack the organ. This, of course, makes the patient very weak and unable to fight off any bacteria or viruses at all.

Besides potential dangers to the organ recipient, the process of organ donation can also be hazardous to living person making the donation. Some of the dangers of becoming a living donor include:

Health consequences -- pain, discomfort, infection, bleeding and potential future health complications are all possible. Psychological consequences -- family pressure, guilt or resentment. Pressure -- family members may feel pressured to donate when they have a sick family member or loved one. No donor advocate -- while the patients have advocates, like the transplant surgeon or medical team (who are there to advise the patient and work in favor of his or her best interests) donors do not have such an advocate and can be faced with an overwhelming and complicated process with no one to turn for guidance or advice (Ethics 25).

This only exacerbates the sacrifice that is required of the donor. Particularly when the person who needs an organ is a family member or close friend, there can be a lot of pressure to give up an organ. Not only will they have to weigh the consequences of the potential for guilt should the loved one not receive the needed transplant and then die, but the donor must also consider how the sacrifice will affect his or her own health. According to the Center for Bioethics, a staggering "86% of people reported a deterioration in their health status after donation" (Ethics 26). Yet, many times familial loyalty outweighs the need for personal safety and many generous people do wind up giving a body part to someone they care about. In this the need to do "the right thing" is most imperative. If so many people view donation of an organ as this right thing to do, then doesn't that alone make the process ethical in the sense that ethics of a society are determined by what the majority of that society's population believe?

Making the decision to willingly give up a healthy organ to another human being, whether you know them or not, is nothing short of heroic. In his book The Ethics of Organ Transplantation, author Wayne N. Shelton quotes MFA Woodruff from a 1966 discourse on kidney transplantation. Woodruff writes:

The opportunity of saving a life by pulling someone out of a fire, or rescuing them from drowning, is comparable to the situation of the kidney donor, with just the difference that the kidney donor has a little longer to make his mind up…If I decide that I would like to donate one of my kidneys and run the risk of the procedure and the risk that I might subsequently have kidney failure, then it seems that this is a matter for me. Like all other risks that I choose to run…these are matters of personal choice (Shelton 94).

It is difficult to disagree with Woodruff in this matter. Whether or not a person desires to donate a kidney to another human being should be up to that individual. Religious and ethical considerations… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Organ Donation.  (2011, May 20).  Retrieved April 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/organ-donation/5073402

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