During founder’s week, one of the presentations was a Bioethics Symposium on the Organ Trade entitled If the Price is Right. As first years, we still have the Bioethics as one of our ‘classes’ – though I am not sure that is the right term for it because we are under the PBL curriculum and technically we aren’t graded for Bioethics which is called Fundamentals of Medical Practice (FMP) – so we were asked to do a Reaction Paper on the Symposium. My work previous essays having been already read in front of the class as an example, have set the bar a little high for me, this going hand in hand with our discussions on hematology. What the medical technicians take 2 years to learn, we had a week to understand. 🙂
So this is a rough draft of my essay.
A REACTION PAPER ON THE BIOETHICS PRESENTATION
“IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT: TAKING SIDES ON THE ORGAN TRADE”
By: Patricia L. Anastacio (Group 9)
“Human organ sale or trade, by its very nature is morally unacceptable. It is contrary to the dignity of the human person, his or her authentic autonomy and the essential equality of all persons… [The] body ought not to be treated as a commodity or object of commerce, which would amount to the dispossession or plundering of the human body.” – ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, DD
Today’s generation has become a day and age where the art of commercialism thrives by laying waste to the impoverished and impecunious. We live in a world where everything is up for grabs and labeled with prices and where the repercussions are great.
The organ trade is of no exception. From a mere myth, it has metamorphosed into a lucrative underground multi-million dollar business, flourishing through the black market as tidal waves of body parts are harvested and put up for sale not unlike meat.
The black market in human body parts knows no limits, abusing and exploiting the powerless to feed the need of the desperate. The shortage of available organs is a global feature of organ transplantation and has been a challenge almost since its inception. This shortage is what fuels the avenue for organ trafficking.
The brainchild of the organ trade is what is now known as Transplant Tourism, which is rapidly becoming an emerging trend that is escalating to a concern on the global level. It occurs when foreigners, who for reasons such as not being prioritized in a transplant list, seek the organs they need elsewhere, more often than not in less developed countries where the people, driven by poverty, are willing to sell their organs which are the machines of their life, unbeknownst of the possible consequences.
Despite stringent and fine tuned laws, most jurisdictions are not able to curtail organ trafficking and neither are they able to supply organs to the needy. The presence of loopholes in the law further contributes to the illegal trade of organs. Unlike in other countries, no law explicitly prohibits the sale of human organs from live donors in the Philippines.
In 2006, 41.4 percent (286 of 690) of transplantation operations in the Philippines were done on foreign patients. The following year, the number of foreign patients in transplant operations outstripped the number of local transplant patients. 536 or 51.2 percent of 1046 recorded transplantations that year were done on foreign patients.
In 2008, a total ban was ordered in the transplantation of kidneys from Filipino non-related donors to foreigners to stem the illegal kidney trade, however data from the Renal Disease Control Program (REDCOP), which is mandated by law to collect information on kidney transplant operations in the country showed that only 3 of the 536 foreigners who visited the country in 2007 to get kidney transplants done, sourced their new organs from blood relatives. From the 124 in 1996, the number of organ transplant operations in country ballooned to 1046 in 2007. Data revealed that the influx of transplants was fueled by the influx of foreign transplant patients.
As evidenced, the flames of the black market are not easily extinguished. The question of prohibition versus regulation remains. Is it even practicable in the Philippines when simple statutory laws cannot be implemented and reinforced? With the leniency of the government, I fear that the Philippines will continue to exist as a back door avenue clinic for the market of fresh organs. We cannot address the permanent dismantling of the black market, but what we can address is the regulation of organs to alleviate the pre-existing shortage. There are three possibilities; the first would be to increase voluntary public donations for transplant organs or making transplant donations easier, the second would be a legislation making it government policy to compel society members to compulsorily donate their organs during special instances, and lastly is to open up a free market for transplant organs allowing them to be bought and sold like any other commodity.
Commercialization should be curbed, not by depriving a needy person of his genuine requirements but by making the enforcement agencies efficient. Regardless of the procedures involved in organ trafficking, at the end of the day, it is still the healthcare practitioners involved in the procedure that have the final say.
I believe that driven by unethicality, these healthcare practitioners, particularly the doctors, have forsaken their oaths for the seductive lure of prehensility. It is the corruption of the medical field that can be reined in with intense scrutiny and proper documentation.
The black market is something that will inevitably forever exist in probably any country, however with proper regulations – which our government cannot accomplish – can be hindered to a mere trickle. It entails first and foremost proper education of the masses, proper documentation and follows through in all government and non-government healthcare sectors, proper compensation and the insurance of safety for both parties. If a free market existed, the ceiling prices of the transplant organs would sky rocket to the roof, and thus there will be a loss of equal prospects. Money will dictate the distribution of an already scarce resource. Will the market even be regulatable? The whole health care system will be subjected to market forces.
The legalization of the free trade of organs would categorize the human body as a commodity, commoditization so to speak, something that is bought and sold. A free market for transplant organs would make human organs a commodity and that would be intrinsically morally wrong.
The integrity of the human body should never be subject to trade. The basic ethical principle involved in organ transplantation is whether a person has a right to enjoy life on the basis of organs belonging to others. Our body is our own. It is the one thing that is intrinsically ours, however, punishing people for trying to sell their organs infringes on a right to decide what to do with one’s body.
The premise for organ donation that is permissible by the church is the donation out of altruism and beneficence expecting no compensation in return. Whether the organs come through donation, gift, or sale is a matter of individual choice and circumstances. Even if a person gives his organ willingly and without any thought as to recompense he suffers harm to his body.
Morality is highly contextual. How do we even begin to measure the moral content of a particular act? “When a person sells an organ he or she acts both selfishly, in advantaging him or herself, and altruistically, in contributing to a public good.”
Ideally, I would like to believe that the Philippines has hope, that one day we will no longer be enslaved by the enticement of money and of a better life because of the bonds of poverty. I would like to believe that someday, the government will finally do something right and address the problems of the Philippines instead of worrying about things like electoral sabotage cases. However, I do not feel like there is a glimmer of chance that any of the aforementioned will be feasible in the Philippines let alone practicable. There will always be a welcome banner for foreigners to exploit Filipinos for their organs until the government makes a stand. Until education is disseminated, until healthcare practitioners practice their oaths and until the Filipinos take a stand united as one country.
Now, this is just the first 3 pages. I have not included the rest because it would be tedious to read plus, i didn’t take a side simply because it would not be practicable in the Philippines. Actually, we were asked to do a minimum of 1 page, i overdid it.