Sale, trade or donation of human organs

The ethical principle underlying the selling, exchange, or donation of human organs is one of the issues that has ignited a very polarized debate. In reality, when ethical concerns are brought up in debates about whether or not human organ trafficking should be legalized, the situation becomes much more complicated. Moral values often endorse claims for and against the selling, trade, or donation of human organs, but no claim has achieved universal acceptance. Because of technological advancements in and around medicine, the twenty-first century has seen more organ transplant operations than any other time in human history (Friedlaender 972). In fact, the frequency of transplant has resulted in shortages of such organs leaving governments and the medical fraternity in an even deeper dilemma. Due to the necessity of human organs and the demand therein, only a few people are willing to donate their organs for free while most opt to get a reward, monetary especially, for offering their organs. This proposal argument will seek to argue for the legalisation of trade, sale, and donation of human organs.

Current position on the subject

A human organ is technically any body tissue that facilitates the effective operation of a human body both internally and externally. In the modern world, few individuals and governments are willing to pass off trading in human organs as a legitimate undertaking. For this reason, willing buyers and willing sellers have opted to trade in the black market where there is no legal retribution. Unfortunately, buyers in this, market take advantage of the less fortunate individuals in the society who are willing to sell their organs for peanuts. In fact, most of the sellers in the black market do so just to earn a little just to meet their daily needs (Richards 139) (Taylor 45). On the other hand, technology has advanced significantly making organ transplant a seemingly easy task to undertake. For this reason, unqualified individuals undertake the procedures as well. The consequence of this is a loss of life of many individuals. While there has been an increase in legitimate organ transplant, the high number of illegal organ sale and transplant has greatly contributed to the decrease in the supply of these organs. As a result, the medical fraternity has lost many patients due to the lack of organs direly needed by these patients.

Selling human organs in the modern society is considered an incredibly dehumanising act. Furthermore, the moral standing of the society does not advocate for trade in human sale legally or otherwise. Proponents for the legalisation of trade and sale of human organs argue that the lack of legitimization of this trade does contribute to the loss of lives that could have otherwise been saved. This does hold some water since the legalisation of trade and sale of human organs would result in a decrease or total termination of black market trading (De Castro 144). Consequently, it would be much easier to manage the supply and the transplants to ensure shortages, like those being experienced right now, are avoided. The fact that the targets proportion of the society is still un-accommodative of this trade makes it hard to legalise.

Governments position on the issue

While not all government policies reflect the will of the public, the governments try to align the policies with the will of the vast majority. In countries like Canada and UK, there are restrictions on the sale of human organs, and this has caused access to these organs very difficult. The United States government, on the other hand, has legalised the sale of human organs and blood. For this reason, the country has been able to supply the patients with needed organs for transplant and blood transfusion successfully for a long time. Consequently, this has improved and saved lives of many US citizens. Noteworthy is the fact that in a country like the United States, the sale of human organs is legalised, individuals engage in ethical trade, and black market trading is insignificant or completely non-existence (Kishore 364). Consequently, the American citizens have come to appreciate the trade for the simple reason that it has done more good than harm. The good realised by the American citizens from the sale of human organs has been made possible through sound legislation that guides the transplant process and the trade of the organs. This legislation is considered to have contributed significantly to saving people’s lives in the United States. This is plausible considering that in countries where the human organ is not legalised nor regulated, people lose lives due to lack of the organs and when being operated on by unqualified individuals.

Besides minimising underground trading of human organs, the legalisation of selling and trading human organs allows the patients to access needed medication after the procedure. This allows them to resume their day-to-day activities hence contributing to the growth of the economy. In countries where the trade is illegal, the societal opposition towards the same is very strong. The societal perception in most countries where the trade is not legitimised is that human organs should be given out of will without attaching a monetary value to the same. While this has brought about harmonisation and selflessness, it has masked the illegal black market trades that continue to be perpetrated. On the other hand, the proponents of the trade argue that it is due to lack of legalisation that some countries have to contend with shortages of human organs. Moreover, they argue that this has also contributed to the existence of an unhappy society resulting from the loss of loved ones. Thus, they argue that legalisation would result in increased supply and consequently ease accessibility in efforts to nature a healthier society.

Benefits of legalisation

While some nations may vehemently reject the call for legalisation of human organ trade, they ought to evaluate the benefits that would root from this action and weigh them against the demerits. In 2010, an approximate 106, 800 transplants were conducted across 95 WHO member states which represented only 10% of the total demand globally (Kishore 364). Expert estimates showed that at least one of ten transplants conducted was done illegally. These statistics amplify the need to streamline human organ transplant and institute strict measures to curb illegal transplants. The best way to do this is by legalising the trade. In nations where organ trade is legalised, individuals earn from this trade allowing them to supplement their budgets at one point or another. Accessing finances is one of the most daunting tasks of the 21st century. Additionally, the income that most people earn is not sufficient to cover the cost of living. It is for this reason that offering the organs for a fee comes in handy. By legalising human organ trade, both the donor and receiver stand to gain and stand a better chance of leading healthier, happy lives.

The argument in most societies where human organ trade is not legalised is that one should offer their organs voluntarily without attaching any monetary value to the donation. While this point of view may be profoundly ethical, it is not entirely considerate. Some the organs donated such as the kidneys are very expensive hence, the perception that a fee should be offered as payment for the organ is very plausible. The rationale behind this is that people that offer their organs are not all financially well off. Where a person offers an organ without a corresponding monetary appreciation and they happen to be financially challenged, they may be left suffering while their organ does good to another. In this case, the essence of organ donation would lack meaning considering that one life is seemingly exchanged for another. All these considered legalising human organ trade would ensure that the donors receive the full remuneration they deserve.

The shortage of organs that has been running for a while now has seen illegal donations by living people increase. It is estimated that 75% of the organs traded illegally globally are the kidneys (Kishore 365). Unfortunately, it is quick daunting tracing the sale of the kidneys, yet traffickers and commercial donors cannot seem to resist the margins. In fact, some people in developing countries sell their organs for a few thousand dollars while the gangs trafficking the organs and the doctors get six figure returns from the same organs. For instance, some people sell their organs for as low as $5000 while the traffickers make approximately $200, 000 for the same organ (Richards 140). The only difference between this and extortion is the absence of coercion. Nonetheless, this unfair exchange can be mitigated and corrected through legalising trade of human organ. Some fear that legalising the trade would heighten criminal activities where some people harm others to acquire their organs and sell (De Castro 146). To the contrary, lack of legal precept on the subject is what increases the possibility of such vice. In black markets, there is hardly any enquiry about the source of the organ as it is in good condition. Legalization of the trade would remedy among other things, black market trading of human organs.


Trade in human organs has been discussed severally in different forums, but it is still largely controversial which makes it hard to arrive at a consensus. Ethically speaking, trading human organs is utterly immoral and inhuman though it has its benefits to the donor and the receiver. The rationale behind legalising the trade is that the donors would stand to benefit as significantly as they deserve while the receiver leads a healthier life. While legalising the trade may come with certain gruesome disadvantages, instituting stringent policies on the trade would go a long way in managing the trade.

Works cited

De Castro, L. D. “Commodification and exploitation: arguments in favour of compensated organ donation.” Journal of medical ethics 29.3 (2003): 142-146.

Friedlaender, Michael M. “The right to sell or buy a kidney: are we failing our patients?.” The Lancet 359.9310 (2002): 971-973.

Kishore, R. R. “Human organs, scarcities, and sale: morality revisited.” Journal of medical ethics 31.6 (2005): 362-365.

Richards, J. Radcliffe. “Commentary. An ethical market in human organs.” Journal of medical ethics 29.3 (2003): 139-140.

Taylor, James Stacey. Stakes and kidneys: why markets in human body parts are morally imperative. Taylor & Francis, 2017.

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