Organ Donations - the Unethical Practice. Essay on Public Health.

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University of Richmond
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Jim Deal is a man receiving devastating news, in which he would need dialysis for his malfunctioning kidney. Refusing to settle for dialysis and the constraints that come with this medical treatment, he opted for a kidney transplant (Scheper-Hughes, 2014). However, he did not want a transplant from a cadaver but from a living donor as (Scheper-Hughes, 2014) further, states, that a kidney transplant received from a living donor gives the receiving individual a considerably longer lifespan than having received a kidney from a cadaver. Also, Jim found a living donor through the unregulated buying and selling of organs on the internet. The living donor Jim found according to (Scheper-Hughes, 2014), was a young man that immigrated from South Korea who was unable to afford his education, as well as housing and the young man felt deportation would result if he dropped out of school due to financial obligations.The young man willing to donate his kidney for very little money did not fare well after surgery, as the operation was botched. Jim unethically exploited this young man as money is no issue for Jim, whos greed fueled by wanting a living donor instead of dialysis or an organ from a cadaver. However, the ethical standing of his decision to buy a kidney from an underpriviledged young man can best be scrutinized through the utilitarian perspective.

The decision to consider an action as ethical or otherwise is a philosophical undertaking. There are several ethical theories that explain the reasoning behind moral authority of decision makers. Deontology is one of these theories. This perspective was fronted by Immanuel Kant in the 17th century. Deontology argues that an action is ethical or unethical depending on its congruence with the universa moral law. The source of the universal moral law is a maxim that is accepted by many people. For instance, religious teachings are universal tenets from which moral references can be made. Utilitarianism is another moral perspective that shapes the decision to lable an action as ethical or unethical. The actions that bring utility to a majority of pople are morally right, while those that do not auger well with the majority are not. Therefore, it is important to determine the number of people that would benefit from Jims decision to buy an organ from the poor young man. The criteria for judgement of ethicality of an action is based on the happiness that its outcome brings to various people.

Fundamentally, utilitarianism is concerned with the promotion of happiness (Mulgan, 2015). The outcome of any action should provide happiness for it to be morally right. Therefore, this principles looks at the end rather than the means. The means towards achieving an effect may have negative or injurious effcts but the outcomes may be impressive. Utilitarians normallly judge the action by its outcomes.

Jims case squarely falls under the utilitarian principle. Jim has started a new company and wants to take it to the next level. However, his deteriorating health is a hinderance towards this realization. There is another option that Jim might explore. He can go on with dialysis, although he thinks that this option will consume much of his valued time. The organ bank in his town may be having ready kidneys, but he is concerned that they originated from cadervers. He feels that his money could buy him a live kidney and have him back on his feet as soon as possible. A kidney from a live stranger also gurantees longevity more than the one from a caderver. This decision, however, is at the expense of a poor young man and his brother. Jim has a family and a coterie of friends that he wants to live for. The organ donor has bills to pay and an education to pursue. He is struck with a dilemma of balancing his health with life demands. He must have money for him to live a happy life. On the other side, Jim must have a functioning kidney for him to fulfill his coprate ambitions. His business partners, family and friends will be happy if he survives to oversee his business. On the other side, completeing education for the Korean young man means a better life for him and his family.

The donors happiness in this case is not guranteed. He already has pending bills and fees to pay. His brother also has uses for which he wants to spend the money on. In fact, the money with which he sold the kidney got finished as soon as it was paid. The happiness of the two brothers is shortlived. To make the matters worse, the organ donor will have to remain in the hospital to heal his wounds after a botched surgery. According to utilitarian principle, Jim and his accomplices commited an unethical acts and should be held accountable for the misery that befell the donor. There is a need to the governments intervention on behalf of vulnerable organ sellers.

There is an increasing incidence of illegal organ brokerage in the United states. According to Kabbur (2016), the US organ transplantation system must progress alongside the ever growing usage of social media for buying organs . In essence, people like Jim are vastly connected worldwide, a factor that facilitates the illegal trade in organs. Additionally, deprived individuals to are forced sell their organs in black market. Correspondingly, Shimazono (n.d) states that poverty is the driving force behind remunerated kidneys donation. By identifying the illegal organ trade channels, the government gets a better chance at stopping individuals such as Jim from buying a kidney online at the expense of poor people. Furthermore, Jims selfish greed to save his skin on his terms, when there were other options available, proves a gap in regulations implementation.

Raising awareness in the recruitment of living donors for organ trade can aid in maintaining the ethical buying and selling of organs. According to John Hopkins Medicine (2013), social media can be mobilized to achieve sober organ distribution through getting people to sign up for organ donation upon their death. The article further states five to ten thousand individuals die without consenting to donate their organs. Raising this awareness alone helps narrowing the gap between the unethical, illegal practices of the organ trade as organs become more readily available through cadavers. Furthermore, thre is a need to raise the bar in ethical practices (American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2009). Doctors should be aware that it is their responsibility to uphold ethical practices of the transplantation of organs. In Jims case if doctors practiced this awareness, the poor young man would not have been preyed upon for his kidney for money. The increased awareness from the government and the medical fraternity will empower individuals to stand against illegal and life-theratening organ donation.

According to Wagner (2014), the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 prohibited the selling and purchasing of organs and banned this type of organ harvesting in the United States as well as many other countries. As seen in this case the law was unable to deter Jims unethical decision. Although utilitarianism is the criteria used in judging this case, the action was wrong according to deontology. There is already an existing law that prohibits this sale. This fact also compounds the case as criminal. Jims case is on eof the many eevnts that go unreported. Overall, on a global scale, the society as a whole is driving a form of human trafficking that is exploiting people for the human organ trade and harvesting. There are laws in place at the international business level to stop the black market. These laws enables those in need of organs to acquire them ethically, legally, and safely. Unfortunately, people such as Jim, rougue doctors, hospitals, organ brokers, intermediaries, and the living donors themselves (usually not through the fault of their own) are fueling the drive, which in turn keeps the black market thriving. Jim, the medical team involved in organ harvesting, and the facility ought to face the wrath of justice in accordance with the laws that govern organ harvesting.

In conclusion, its evident that organs have become a hot commodity that many people are in pursuit of. The demand for organs is high as diseases prompt patients to replace their organs with new ones. Due to the high demand, there is a slow but steady emergence of the organ black market. The orchestrators of this market are rogue surgeons, organ brokers, and the receipients. Doing business behind the governmnets watch is illegal, but its is also unethical due to the repurcaussins involve. More often than not, illegal organ trade leads to the deformation of the donor. When the procedures to harvest the organs are done in backstreet doctor offices, there is a likelihood of the patient developing sepsis or other form of ailments. Jims case s a calssical example of a procedure gone wrong. While Jim smiled all the way into the recovery room, the truobled young donor curled in a thetre room in pain. According to utilitarian principle, Jim cindcuted himself unethiocally in the face of moral reasoning and criminally according to the law. Jim became happy after the organ donation, although the donr was left with misery after the procedure. The money that Jim provided for the kidney did not suffice to bring happiness to the young man, meaning that the case meets the requirements of an unethiocal practice.



Griffin, A., Scholar, C., (2007). Kidneys on demand. BMJ Publishing Group, 334 (7592), 502- 505. Retrieved from

John Hopkins Medicine (2013). The facebook effect: Social media dramatically boosts organ registration. Retrieved from

Kabbur, G. (2016). Can social media help increase the organ supply while avoiding exploitation and trafficking. AMA Journal of Ethics, 18(2), 115-121 Retrieved from

Mulgan, T. (2014). Understanding utilitarianism. Routledge.Scheper-Hughes, N. (2014). Human traffic: exposing the brutal organ trade. Retrieved from

Shimazono, Y., (n.d.). The state of the international picture based on integration of available information. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 85(12), 901-980 Retrieved from

Wagner, L., (2013). [Organ trafficking: More than just a myth]. Retrieved from

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