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The Ethical Concerns of Organ Transplant Tourism

Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.

What is Transplant Tourism?

Transplant tourism is a new and shady concern on the global level. It is a practice in which rich foreigners are given the opportunity to buy any organ they so please and have it transplanted into them with little more then an exchange of a large sum of money. The concern comes when one has to think about where these organs are coming from and why they are on the market.

Diagram of the kidneys (from the back.)

Diagram of the kidneys (from the back.)

Organ tourism is often illegal in the countries it's practiced in. There are good reasons for this. For one when a person decides to donate an organ they must go through a slew of health and type tests to make sure the said organ is fit and healthy enough to function in another person. Also these organs are taken from either living people or people who are coming to an end in their life anyway. Organs aren't taken from individuals who have a high risk of needing it in the future. Furthermore in most countries organs are illegal to buy for the simple reason that the rich should not be given special treatment. A peasant with organ failure is no less sick then a wealthy person nor any less deserving.

Because these activities are often illegal at least one party involved usually ends up financially burned. Donors are often peasants desperate for money to keep their homes or continue on their lives. These people are lured in with the promise of being paid for said organ, sometimes as much as ten grand but few ever see a cent. On the other side are the transplantees who are sometimes lured to foreign countries where all their cash is taken when there really isn't an organ to be transplanted. The practice brings forth all sorts of unseemly individuals.

The Social Ramifications

Many people are turned down every year for organ transplants because they are a bad risk. These people often turn to desperate means to secure an organ. Where this is money there is always a way. In cases where there is only one organ in the human body to be donated (for instance the heart) the donor must die to give the organ. In the United States and other first world countries this is only done when an individual is either dying or completely brain dead with no hope of recovery. In a less fortunate country people could be kidnapped and killed for their organs, or taken to be vivisected as payment for bets gone bad. The death of innocents is usually condemned as rumor but it's hard to say that it isn't true when peasants routinely disappear in areas where organ agents are searching for fresh meat.

The poor often voluntarily give up an organ such as a kidney after being promised money. Rarely do they actually get any money and because the practice is illegal very few report to the police. In later life when these people find themselves needing an organ they'll find that they themselves have to wait on a legitimate list, sometimes until they die.

Is it right or ethical to take organs from the poor? Even if they are being paid, is it right? What happens to them afterwards, after they are kicked out of the hospital? What happens if one of their children or family members needs the organ they already gave up? Is it right for the rich to have special treatment merely because they're rich?

Sometimes organs are taken from legitimate lists and given to foreigners who can afford to pay before the organ can reach someone in the same country who direly needs it. Is this ethical?

Cloning the End of Transplant Tourism?

On January 15, 2008, the first cloned rat heart started beating on it's own outside of any body. The heart was created using the aid of stem cells and beats at 2% the capacity of a normal rat heart. Still, the fact it beats at all without any help is a spectacular discovery. It's not to much to think that in the future human organs may be able to be grown in the laboratory and kept on stock for whoever may need a replacement part. If this happens then there will be no need for donors or transplant tourism. Everyone would theoretically be treated equally as for the first time we'd have an abundance of organs to go around.

Rat Heart Grown

If you found this article interesting you might like some of Theophane's other articles:

Inherited Memory in Organ Transplant Recipients

Is Marketing to Teens, Children, and Even Babies Ethical?

The Most Unethical Science Experiments Conducted on the Unwitting and Vulnerable

When Pet Owners and Breeders should make a Stand against Breed Standards in Dogs

A Psychopath in the Family: My Personal Experience

Feral Children - Raised by Animals and Wilderness

Do Neglected Children Suffer More Brain Damage than Abuse Victims?

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Comments on May 18, 2013:

Many patients struggling with liver failure. In India, liver transplantation surgeries are carried out with equivalent results if in contrast to UK and USA More Read

days leaper from england on July 29, 2010:

A good attempt at informing people of the folly of not going through proper channels.

I have made a link to your hub from one of my own.

Again, Thank You!

moonlake from America on October 10, 2008:

Our son 5 years ago received a brain injury. He was 28. The day after he arrived at the hospital and all test were finished they ask us to sign for him to be a donor. They told us he was brain dead. I just couldn't do it I was worried they would turn off the machines and not try to save him..Everyday for two weeks more then once a day they ask us to sign to take him off life support and sign for him to be a donor. We said "no you do all that you can to save him. When we think it is the right time we will sign." I heard the nurses talking about us and how foolish we were. Long story short. Our son is alive today and living a normal life.

I know how much donors are needed and I know that someday I may need one of those donors. I have a bad heart.

I still believe everyone should sign a donor card or whatever. It was just a decision we couldn't make for our son. Our donor story is something I will never forget. I'm giving you the mild story.

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