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Ethics And Legality Of Organ Transplants

Aug 17, 2007
One of the greatest achievements in medical science is organ transplant surgery. People who have failing organs and are doomed to die can now be given a new lease on life by the generosity of organ donors who are giving part of their own bodies to save or enhance the lives of others. However, there are many ethical issues and controversies pertaining to organ transplants.

Discussions on the ethics on organ transplants invariably will attract questions like for instance:-

Can human organs be traded commercially, if not why? Should a person who has already received one transplant be allowed another one? Should alcoholics be given liver transplants, where after all, it was their alcoholism that damages their livers in the first place? What are the sources of organs used in organ transplants operations?

Perhaps the most controversial topics of these ethical debates are about the procurement and distribution of human organs for transplant and are centered on the questions of how do we get the organs and how do we decide who will receive organ transplants?

Since there are always fewer organ donors than there are potential recipients, this fact make the debate on who should get the organ available very emotional and heated which is not surprising because lives are at stake.

To compound the problem, organ transplants are very expensive surgical procedures and only the rich can afford them. Poorer folks may never get the opportunity of a transplant even if they need it more urgently than their richer counterparts. Should the choice of who get the organs be dependant upon who can afford it?

Then there is the issue of not everyone agreeing when death of the donor actually occurs. Is it when the heart and lungs stop functioning or the donor is certified brain dead?

What about consent of the donor? At the present moment, a donor has to expressly agree for organ donor ship in order for organs to be removed except in Singapore which have the controversial Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA). The Act assumed that all Singapore citizens have consented to be organ donors unless opted out. However, Muslims are exempted from the Act for religious reasons.

Which is the better way to get consent from the donors? By enacting legislations or relying on willing donors?

Since most people can live with only one kidney or one eye, which are organs which can be donated while the donor is still alive. Should the donor be allowed to sell his kidney? The argument against allowing commercial trade on human organs is that it may encourage poor people to sell their organs and even may encourage unethical syndicate organ trading rackets.

There are people suffering and are on the death row waiting for organ transplants to save their lives and decisions about the ethics of organ transplants will have a tremendous impact on them. What is your position on these ethical issues of human organ transplants?
About the Author
Chris Chew is a researcher. More articles atEnlargement breast surgery and
Liver transplant surgery
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