Organ Donation Essay

Pros and Cons of Paying for Organ Donation

The purpose of this essay is to further reinstate the claim that financial incentives should not be permitted in order to encourage organ donation. Research mainly consisted of searching through UOW databases, including summon. As financial incentives are only legalised in Iran proper statistical based evidence was difficult to come across, although what was found was evaluated and analysed. There are three main arguments of this essay: exploitation of the poor, loss of altruistic donors leading to the commodification of the human body and autonomy.

The research conducted indicated that providing financial incentives has many more disadvantages than advantages. Based on these findings, financial incentives for organ donation should not be implemented nor considered. The demand for organs for transplantation greatly exceeds the supply. As the number of individuals who are in need of a transplantation grows the less likely it becomes that they will receive the gift of an organ.

The procedure of a transplant has many risks and can be quite costly, which is why there are very few volunteer donors.

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Currently, to combat the lack of donors, the introduction of financial incentives for organ donors is being considered. These financial incentives may very well increase donation, although they could have dire consequences. Financial incentives can include tax benefits, free health insurance, money in hand and any other types of material gain given to the donor. With all of this in mind, the introduction of financial incentives for organ donation should not be considered any further.

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Financial compensation for organ donation will bring about the exploitation of the financially vulnerable, the human body will be turned into a commodity and there will be a decline in altruistic donors.

Exploitation of the Financially Vulnerable

Although it can be argued that we should have the right over our own bodies, individuals cannot grant proper consent for the operation with the enticement of financial incentives clouding their judgement. The introduction of financial incentives for organ donation will see individuals who are vulnerable, uneducated and in need of financial gain be exploited. Individuals who are compelled to donate an organ for a financial reward are likely to be desperate and poverty-stricken leading them to be exploited for the benefit of individuals with expendable money. Adair & Wigmore (2011, p. 191) recognise that in a society where compensation was provided, the demographic of organ donors would be living under the poverty line and in need of money. Harvey (1990, p. 117) uses Evans’ (1989) findings that organs are being sold to a recipient for an average of US $39,000, whereas the donor is only being rewarded around US $3,500. This indeed constitutes as exploitation of the financially vulnerable.

There have been many devastating consequences in countries where the sale of organs takes place. In Pakistan, many individuals have sold their kidneys to liberate themselves from slavery, but have found themselves back in debt when their compensation was insufficient (Adair & Wigmore 2011, p. 191). These individuals were abused and exploited by what seemed, through their eyes, to be a flawless system. Introducing financial incentives for organ donation may lead to poor and desperate individuals feeling compelled to undergo the operation and take the risks, contrary to their better judgement. This would lead to these individuals being exploited because of their financial situation. Furthermore, Mahdanian (2008, p. 120) found that in Iran where organ sales are legal, and men have authority over women, women are forced by their husbands to sell their kidneys to pay for their families essential needs.

A market where organ donation was compensated may rely on this exploitation alone to exist. There is no way to create a market in human organs where exploitation is non-existent; taking advantage of individuals who are in need of financial gain is ethically incorrect. Moreover, having the government offer financial incentives to increase organ donation would result in donors being exploited because of the financial motivations behind their decision. Introducing financial incentives for organ donation will result in the commodification of the human body and the loss of altruistic donors. Individuals who feel compelled to donate an organ for a price are costing themselves their humanity as they turn their bodies into a commodity, which can be auctioned, bought and sold. Truog (2005 p. 445) argues that the introduction of financial incentives for organ donors threatens the view that an organ is a gift of life. Mahdanian (2008, p. 120) further states that rewarding donors makes the donation feel more like a business transaction rather than a gift. This commercialization of organs is likely to leave donors feeling dissatisfied and malcontented once all of the compensated money is spent.

Volunteer and Altruistic Donors

At present, the main source of non-cadaveric organs comes from volunteer and altruistic donors, if compensation was provided to these donors, the gift of an organ would significantly lose meaning, discouraging further donations. Furthermore, Demme (2010, pp. 46-47) discovered in a study that 96% of altruistic donors would donate again if possible and 84% would encourage others to donate, although in Pakistan 85% of donors who were compensated would definitely not sell a kidney again and 76% would discourage others from selling their organs. These statistics clearly provide evidence that the vast majority of individuals who were compensated for organ donation regret their decision and do not recommend doing so to others, consequently leading to a decline in organ supply. The notion that human organs can be bought and sold can negatively influence our human dignity and respect for the human body (Phadke & Anandh 2002, p. 310).

It is evident that the introduction of financial compensation for organ donors will result in negative outcomes; the consequences of donating an organ for a price will establish a chain of events leading towards organ commercialism and the eradication of altruistic donors. All individuals deserve the basic right to choose the fate of their organs. As individuals own their bodies, they have autonomy over their bodies in all aspects health; essentially individuals should have a right to donate a kidney. This argument is used by supporters of financial incentives for organ donation to justify the exploitation and commodification, which is definite to arise if compensation was legalised. However, it is evident that once an individual accepts money, their autonomy cannot be guaranteed. Adair & Wigmore (2011, p. 191) discuss that in the setting of paid donation, the risks of surgery are often not properly explained or understood leading to informed consent being uncertain.

As discussed earlier, the demographic of organ donors are usually poor and poverty stricken which makes them vulnerable to coercion, and since their consent for an organ donation is considered to be under coercion it can no longer be seen as valid consent (Major 2008, p. 68). Evidentially, once an individual accepts money their consent can no longer be authenticated. A market in organs would essentially be in the same category of paid human body transactions as slavery and prostitution (Phadke & Anandh 2002, p. 310). Providing financial incentives for organ donation makes it impossible to be able to validate consent and separate altruistic donors from those who are donating for the financial gain. This will result in many ethical issues and possible lawsuits in the medical department, if donors regret their decision or are harmed in the operation.

Although we should have the basic right to make decisions over our own bodies, it is evident that when there is the temptation of financial incentives for organ donation, especially for individuals who are in need of financial gain, our genuine autonomy cannot be guaranteed, leading to many ethical disputes. In conclusion, the negative effects of introducing financial incentives for organ donation greatly outweigh the positives. Providing financial incentives for organ donation is likely to lead to the exploitation of the poor for the good of the rich, the loss of altruistic donors and the commodification of the human body, also proven is the lack of ability to grant consent when material gain is present. Therefore, introducing financial incentives is extremely unethical and should not be implemented or even considered if individuals do not want to lose their humanity.

Organ Donation in the United States

In the United States today, people lose their lives to many different causes. Though this is tragic, there are also a large group of people who could benefit from these deaths; and those people are people in need of an organ transplant. Although a sudden or tragic death can be heart breaking to a family, they could feel some relief by using their loved ones’ organs to save the lives of many others. This act of kindness, though, can only be done with consent of both the victim and the family; making the donation of organs happen much less than is needed. The need for organs is growing every day, but the amount provided just is not keeping up. Because of the great lack of organ donors, the constant need for organs, and the wonderful gift-giving opportunity an organ provides, mandatory organ donation should be implemented.

The first organ transplant to ever take place was in 1954, with the successful transplantation of a kidney from a living donor. Although this was a large milestone, there were still many strides to take before an organ would be successfully transplanted from a dead donor to a living recipient. In fact, organ donation did not become something to regularly take place until the late 1980’s, when medical technology was much more advanced. The main reason organ donation was not regularly performed until nearly 30 years after the first transplant is because it was hardly ever successful until then (Timeline of Historical Events). Organs must be removed from a deceased donor within 60 minutes of the heart not beating, any later and the organs will begin the decaying process and will no longer be good to use (Brain Disease; New Tool). When that happens, the already small number of available organs will fail to increase, causing even more of a problem with the growing need of patients not receiving them. The system is devised so that the sickest patients with the greatest need receive organs first, and though that is the best way to do it, there are still thousands of patients slowly dying, waiting to receive their needed organ (Allfather). Though it seems this system would be the most efficient, still 8,021 people died in 2010 waiting on an organ (Matthews). The demand simply will not meet the need unless something is done to make it meet the need.

Reasons for Mandatory Organ Donation

A prominent reason mandatory organ donation should be implemented is that the lack of organs available does not only effect America. Around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people in need. In order to try to better meet these demands, people in countries in where poverty is extremely prominent have began selling their own organs for a couple thousand dollars. Kidneys are the world’s most needed organ, but it is also one that someone would only need one of to live, which has led many people to sell it. Many people who come from poverty have resorted to selling a kidney, in attempts to make their lives better for themselves and their families. “Organ trading is wrong because it presupposes that the body is a piece of property akin to our material possessions.” (Fisanick, 17). One issue is currently, if a deceased person is registered as an organ donor, the family of that person can veto the decision and not allow the organ to be used. The other problem with needing family consent is often, the last thing the doctor wants to do is ask the family members of someone who just died if they want their deceased family member’s organs donated (Nelson, Murray). Eligible donors who have chosen to be a donor should have their wishes respected, with no intervention from their family.

Another crucial reason is that many studies have shown that as little as 50% of eligible donor are actually registered organ donors (Roth). Often the reason people aren’t registered isn’t because they object to it, they simply don’t remember or think about doing it. Many Americans say they’d be willing to donate organs after their deaths, yet few fill out donor cards (Nelson, Murray). It’s simply a matter of remembering to do it. In order to make remembering to do it easy, many states have considered passing laws that make organ donation automatic unless you have specifically stated you don’t want to. As Richard Brodsky, a New York State senator, as stated, “What I’ve said to anybody, whether they like it or they don’t like it, we can’t sustain the current system.”(Matthews). Foreign countries such as France, Spain, and Austria have the opt-in/opt-out system, and their amount of donors nearly meets the demand for organs (Matthews). The US currently has the Opt-In system, which is done by checking a little box when applying for a driver’s license (Allfather). It is often ignored or looked over, causing people with viable organs to not be able to donate them even if they weren’t against it. But if the US were to adopt and opt-out system, then someone saying they didn’t want to be a donor would be as simple as checking that little box then applying for their license (Nelson, Murray). This system would make for many more available organs, and maybe even make the availability high enough to wear it meets the needs of the country.

Donating an organ is the ultimate gift any person could give, simply because it saves the life of another. Giving the gift of life is far more important than the right to decide how to dispose of a body that a deceased person will no longer need. When a person is dead, and no longer needs the body, then in all reality a person whom is dying, and could easily be saved by an organ from the deceased person deserves it far more. A person whom is dying has more of a right to life than someone has the right to decide what to do with their body once they’re dead (Walker). Donating organs shouldn’t be considered a charity, it should be considered a moral duty (Nelson, Murray). A moral duty which everyone should want to participate in. Making organ donation mandatory could save up to 18 lives per day, and that sounds far better than those people dying because somebody didn’t want to be a donor (Organ Donation Should Be Made Mandatory). “Anyone, regardless of age, race or gender can become an organ or tissue donor.” (Schwartz, 100). More than 107,991 people were in need of an organ as of June 18th, 2010 (Matthews). One of the main reasons so many people are in need is because there are multiple reasons why a donation may be necessary. Some of those reasons include if a person is ill for years, no medications would prolong life, a transplant is that person’s only chance for survival, or when doctors can give an estimate to how the person will live without it (Schwartz, 3). Those are just the main reasons, there are many. many more as well as to why someone would need a transplant. Donating just one organ can save up to 8 people’s lives, and also can help further scientific research. The need for these organs is doing nothing but increasing daily, there needs to be a change made (Organ Donation Should Be Made Mandatory).

Arguments against Mandatory Donation

Though organ donation should be made mandatory, there are valid oppositions to it. One reason being that no human is obligated to help another, regardless of moral standing. There is absolutely no legal standing to say that any person. should be forced to help another, even if they are dead and have no say. Though this is a valid opposition, morally any good person should want to help another person if he saw another in need. Though thinking of one’s own death is difficult, each person should realize that donating an organ is one of the best ways to help another person (Organ Donation Should Be Made Mandatory). There are also religious conflicts which could make donating an organ impossible. There are a few minor religions that believe having your body disturbed in that way after death will lead to eternal damnation. Some Christians believe in full resurrection of the body as well. The argument is that making organ donation compulsory would violate people’s right to freedom of religion, though if it were to be an opt-out program, than simply checking the opt-out box would be an easy solution to being sure their organs were not touched after death (Organ Donation Should Be Made Mandatory). There is also the concern that if there were suddenly a mass supply of organs available for donation, that the medical professionals examining the organs will not be as thorough as they currently are, simply because there would be enough organs to meet needs. If there were enough organs, then not examining them correctly could result in the need actually increasing more because a faulty organ will fail if a transplant is attempted and the organ is not healthy. Not only would it not be smart for a medical professional to not properly do his/her job, but it would probably be illegal and cause for him/her losing their job (Organ Donation Should Be Made Mandatory). The final reason people may oppose mandatory organ donation is because of the misguided belief a doctor wouldn’t try as hard to save someone’s life if he/she knew the patient were an organ donor. Back to the reason of it being illegal for a doctor to this, it is not only extremely unlikely, but ridiculous to think of. It is a doctor’s moral responsibility to work as hard as he/she can to save a person’s life, whether the patient are an organ donor or not. This is a misplaced fear with no standing (Matthews). Organ donation can save so many lives, yet it does not happen near as much as it needs to for reasons such as these.

Mandatory organ donation should be made compulsory because there is such a shortage of these organs, the need is only increasing, and it should be a moral duty to do it! As many as 63 people receive an organ daily, while 17 people die waiting for one (Roth). This in no means meets demands. So many lives could be saved daily by making organ donation mandatory, and currently lives are being lost for inadequate reasons. Making organ donation mandatory will not be an easy thing, but making a change could be as simple as checking the box on the license registration sheet. This may seem like a small issue in the scheme of things, but the amount of lives lost from it are unacceptable, and this needs to be adjusted.

Reference List

  • Adair, A & Wigmore, SJ 2011, ‘Paid organ donation: the case against’, Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England, vol. 93, no. 3, pp. 191-192.
  • Demme, R 2010, ‘Ethical Concerns about an Organ Market’, Journal of the National Medical Association, vol. 102, no. 1, pp. 46-50.
  • Harvey, J 1990, ‘Paying organ donors’, Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 117-119.
  • Mahdanian, A 2008, ‘Iranian model of living, non-related kidney donation: a style to be condemned ethically’, Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 34, no. 2, p. 120.
  • Major, R 2008, ‘Paying kidney donors: time to follow Iran’, McGill Journal of Medicine, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 67-69.
  • Phadke, KD & Anandh, U 2002, ‘Ethics of Paid Organ Donation’, Pediatric Nephrology, vol. 17, no. 5, pp. 309-311.
  • Truog, R 2005, ‘The Ethics of Organ Donation by Living Donors’, The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 353, no. 5, pp. 444-446.

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Organ Donation Essay. (2016, Sep 20). Retrieved from

Organ Donation Essay

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