Despite my kidney disease, otherwise I am in relatively good health. I’ve gone through a range of tests which has determined that I am a good candidate to receive a kidney transplant. I still need a donor kidney, though, and that means waiting for a living donor to come forward and pass all the tests that are required in order to be considered a good donor candidate, or waiting for an acceptable kidney from someone who has died.
Living in this situation, I and the many people around the world waiting for a transplant may feel compelled to resort to other than the usual means of procuring an organ. That may mean coercing or guilting a family member or close friend into putting themselves forward as a living donor candidate. It could also mean a wealthy person choosing to buy a kidney from a donor who would otherwise be reluctant.
With all the protocols in place, I doubt that any of these circumstances would arise in Canada, although I cannot say it would never happen. In other parts of the world, though, a black market organ trade exists, and people from the wealthy developed west who are desperate enough could choose to buy their way back to health.
It is not an altogether clearcut issue, though, is it? What we may believe is exploitation could allow another person to escape poverty. If a poor person, healthy enough to donate a kidney, chooses to to do so, and in exchange receives enough money to change her life, isn’t that a great thing? Two parties enter into an agreement. One provides a kidney, the other provides money. Both parties benefit. It’s perfect capitalism, isn’t it?
Below is a video about exactly such a situation. I think the journalist reporting does a good job of raising the ethical dilemma.
The following link is to a pamphlet from the Kidney Foundation of Canada that presents the position established by The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism. This pamphlet, entitled, “Thinking of buying a kidney? Stop!” among other things, challenges the notion that a market in organs can ever be properly controlled.
I for one don’t think the organ trade is an instance of capitalism that I would like to be involved in. But in the meantime, we who are living with kidney failure wait on the altruism (living donor) or tragedy (deceased donor) of others for a chance to live a life not tied to a machine.