Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Organ Donation and Transplants

I was reading an article in last month's Discovery Magazine on how people sell their organs in some Asian countries to make money to live. Apparently there is a huge market for people from all over the world to come to these countries to buy organs that they need to survive. Not surprisingly, a lot of people from the United States make this trip.

My uncle has been waiting for a kidney for three years. He receives dialysis a couple times a week and seems to be in relatively good health (considering that his kidneys aren't working) so it is not a medical emergency for him to get a kidney right away. But I worry that by the time a kidney becomes available that is a good match for him it will be too late.

Some of the stories I read about people being forced to give up their organs were completely disgusting. The thought of being so poor that I would give up an organ to a stranger to have enough food to provide for my family is depressing. But obviously the need is there. When it truly is a matter of life and death you can't fault people for making the decision to travel overseas to get these black market organs for a chance at life. I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing if I or someone I love became terminally ill.

One thing that did stand out in the article was that China harvests organs from death row inmates. What a fantastic idea. This person is going to die any way, why not take something good out of their death? This person probably committed a violent crime and took someone else's life. It seems only fitting that with the end of his life comes the potential to save several other lives.

There are some human rights experts that claim that China pushes people to be executed before they can receive a fair trial in order to get the organs. There are also some issues to how sanitary the operating conditions are and how the organs are stored once they are removed. I don't condone any of these practices and hope that the international community is successful in making sure China is not violating any human rights and follows all basic guidelines for sanitary medical facilities. But, if done properly, I think this is a system that could work.

You have broken the law. The government has confirmed that you are guilty of a crime and cannot be rehabilitated. You will be put to death. Why not harvest every piece of that person's body to help as many people as you can? Should we have to get a prisoner's permission to do this to their dead body? Absolutely not. If we have deemed this person no longer worthy of life then why we would allow them the right to deny life to others?

I'm sure that there would be religious and cultural groups saying that the practice of harvesting organs goes against their beliefs but I suspect killing people is also against their beliefs. Once you go on death row, you lose those rights and know that your organs will be harvested upon your death or your body donated to science or whatever the government sees fit to do with your body. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

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