Regulated Organ Market: Reality Versus Rhetoric

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2014; 14(10): 33-35

Monir Moniruzzaman

While a market in human organs has many broader ramifications (i.e., not only for organ sellers, but also for their families and communities, as well as for altruistic donation, medical profession, and cultural practices; see Delmonico 2008; Scheper-Hughes 2011; Titmuss 1970), I particularly focus on significant harms to organ sellers that Koplin examines in depth. Koplin’s article, “Assessing the Likely Harms to Kidney Vendors in Regulated Organ Markets” (2014), reviews the medical, social, and economic harms to kidney sellers, and reinforces that these widespread harms could persist under a regulated organ market that some physicians, economists, and bioethicists have persistently proposed. I firmly support Koplin’s arguments and echo his claim that the utilitarian assertion in favor of paid organ donation is rendered incomplete. My long-standing ethnographic research on 67 kidney and liver sellers in Bangladesh, spanning more than a decade, strengthens Koplin’s arguments against a regulated organ market, as I present in the following. My point is that a regulated organ market is not an “Aladdin’s lamp” that by itself would eliminate the widespread deception, coercion, and corruption that exist in illicit organ markets, nor would it ensure justice, equity, and rights to organ sellers; rather, the market would exacerbate violence, exploitation, and suffering against the economic underclass. At the very least, the poor have every right to keep their body parts intact, for their physical survival.

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

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