There has always been an air of controversy around organ and tissue donation. At some points, religion intruded the field of medicine, claiming that brain death and the Catholic definition of death did not quite coincide and, therefore, the person who is considered dead by medical experts might not be considered diseased by the adepts of the Christian religion.
At present, however, the religious issues have been shoved in the background by the conflicts between the principles of organ and tissue donation, the differences in current states legislation on organ transplantation and the ethical questions that organ donation concept poses to the society, by introducing stronger principles to the organ donation procedure and reinforcing the law, one can avoid some of the urgent problems like human trafficking. Some of the issues, like using stillborn babies or children with an incurable disease as donors will never be resolved.
Because of the loopholes in the current legislation concerning organ donation, the procedure has been prohibited in a number of countries, despite the fact that organ donation offers new opportunities for saving people’s lives, which means that the existing laws on organ donation should be reconsidered and more stringent principles should be adopted to avoid the smallest possibility of organ donation-related crimes.
Introduction: Organ Donation. Beyond the Horizons of Possibilities
Organ donation has never been an easy issue to discuss. Its nature can be easily interpreted as an argument against religion (Delong, 1993), morality and human life, seeing how organ donation has spurred human trafficking (Territo & Matteson, 2012).
At present, organ donation is not restricted to a specific list; practically any organ can be transplanted from one patient to another one, except for the brain and the spinal cord. However, some of the surgeries are performed more often than the other ones; particularly, the following parts of a human body are most frequently transplanted for the reasons listed below:
|Organ||Reason for transplantation|
|Kidney||Diabetes, polycystic kidney disease, lupus, etc.|
|Heart||Coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, etc.|
|Lung||Cystic fibrosis, COPD, etc.|
|Small intestine||Short bowel syndrome|
It is also worth mentioning that several organs can be transplanted in the course of one surgery. However, the current laws on organ donation differ from one state to another; as a result, in some states, organ donation is prohibited due to the religious, moral or legal objections, while in other states, organ donation is partially or even fully allowed.
It should also be mentioned that at present, the opt-in principle is applied to organ donation. According to the opt-in principle, everyone who signs up for donation can become a donor, provided that the person is healthy. However, in several states, the opt-out principle is in action (all those who did not refuse from donation become donors). Researches show that the opt-out principle increases donations considerably (Territo & Matteson, 2012).
The opt-out principle, however, raises some ethical concerns. For instance, one might simply forget to opt out, be unable to sign him-/herself out of the donor list, etc., and, therefore, become a donor against his/her will. As a result, the opt-out rule is adopted less frequently than the opt-in one.
Current Laws and What Can Be Changed about Them
At present, the following organ donation laws and the related issues exist:
|Organ donation law||Related issue/negative outcome|
|High price for an organ, which can increase over the course of time (Aronowitz, 2009)||Human trafficking|
|Organ donation cannot be carried out unless all participants are of the age of consent.||Patient’s death|
|Incompatibility of medical ethics and the current law||Patient’s death|
It would be wrong to assume that the organ donation ideas stretching beyond the existing laws necessarily presuppose murder or fraud. Some of the suggestions currently considered illegal all over the world are rather reasonable. For instance, it has been debated for quite long whether the babies that were born dead or died very shortly after their birth can be organ donors.
However, the proponents of child organ donation do not stop there; they push the envelope even further by suggesting that the infants that are doomed to death yet have not died yet can become donors for the people whose lives can still be saved.
Conclusion: Making Organ Donation Acceptable All over the World
Unfortunately, most of the questions posed above cannot be answered yet. Because of the imperfections in current legislation concerning the organ donation, as well as the differences in the approaches towards organ donation adopted by states all over the world, it is incredibly hard to work out a viable set of rules for organ donation procedure.
Also, it is worth mentioning that some of the questions related to organ donation will never be answered clearly due to their controversy, which means that the reasonability of an organ donation surgery should be considered on a case-by-case basis. As a result, the organ donation process might become a very slow procedure, which will result in the high risk of the patient’s death before the surgery will have been carried out. With that being said, organ donation rules must be revisited, and more adequate laws in force must be developed.
Aronowitz, A. A. (2009). Human trafficking, human misery: The global trade in human beings. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Delong, W. R. (1993). Organ transplantation in religious, ethical and social context. New York, NY: Routledge.
Territo, L. & Matteson, R. (2012). The international trafficking of human organs: A multidisciplinary perspective. Broken South Parkway, NW: CRC Press.