No one who is not afflicted with a potentially fatal organ disease can really appreciate what it is like to have to wait in desperate hope that an organ donor can be found in time to save their lives. For many thousands of people around the world, salvation comes when a family member volunteers to give up a kidney, or when they are the lucky beneficiaries of an organ donated by a stranger to a hospital or transplant service as a result of a fatal injury.
Even if kidney transplants alone are taken into account, these operations certainly save a lot of lives. From roughly one million patients on dialysis globally every year, more than 100,000 are lucky enough to receive a transplant – and the numbers are rising. But tragically for many others, the wait is a hopeless one. No organ becomes available and death almost inevitably follows.
It is understandable then why many are tempted, if they can afford it, to try to find a donor through other means – in effect to buy the necessary body part from someone who is prepared to give it up in return for cash. The only problem is that in most countries – and certainly in the countries advanced enough to have the available surgical expertise to carry out a transplant – the sale of body organs is both illegal and regarded as highly unethical by the medical community.
Governments and bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) say the reasons for this are obvious; that once money is introduced into any donor/recipient relationship and organs are thereby given a monetary value, there is always a risk that the vulnerable, poverty-stricken or unwitting will be bribed, exploited or even kidnapped in order to extract essential body parts without their agreement.
International black market
In other words, creating a legal market for trading human organs would inevitably lead to criminality and abuse because demand is always so much higher than supply. It would also only benefit those few who are rich enough to pay whatever it costs to buy themselves a new kidney, heart or lung.