Organ markets - problems beyond harm to vendors

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2014; 14(10): 23-25

Alexander M. Capron, Gabriel M. Danovitch & Francis L. Delmonico

For more than a quarter century, the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged nations to ban the purchase or sale of human organs for transplantation from living or deceased donors (WHO 2010). Most countries now impose criminal penalties on organ commercialism, and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, which received final approval by the Committee of Ministers on July 9, 2014, extends the offense of organ trafficking to include the actions of brokers in advertising for and recruiting organ vendors, as well as physicians who knowingly transplant a vended organ (Lopez-Fraga et al. 2014). In the past decade, professional bodies such as the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group have actively promoted the adoption and implementation of laws to halt organ commercialism and transplant tourism (Danovitch et al. 2013). Nonetheless, as Julian Koplin (2014) describes, a vocal group of liberal philosophers and free-market advocates has argued that the shortfall in the supply of organs (particularly kidneys) for transplantation could be overcome through a “regulated market” (Matas, Hippen, and Satel 2008). The market proponents portray the tradeoff in terms of principles, between promoting liberty and extending human lives, on the one hand, and protecting human dignity and preventing commodification of the human body, on the other. They confidently predict that paying for organs would achieve the former, while loss of the latter would not prove harmful to society or individuals. But proposals to establish a regulated market in organs can also be viewed in consequentialist terms. Indeed, Koplin provides strong evidence that regulated markets will not in fact safeguard kidney vendors from physical, psychological, social, and financial harms—in other words, that they pose real threats to people, not solely to principles.

Read the complete article here at The American Journal of Bioethics (subscription required).

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