Proposal 2: Washington Post weighs in on the organ market

500 years ago, the first organ transplant took place. Since then, diseases and illnesses have multiplied, alongside advancements in medical technology, requiring thousands of transplants to be performed daily. About 6,000 kidney transplants alone are performed each year. In 2007, medical transplant experts from around the world met to discuss the future (potential) of a market in human organs. They discussed things like the need for organs in emerging markets such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan. Thousands of people from those nations travel each year in search of organs in other countries like China, Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines.  The evidence comes from reports by brokers and physicians, surveys in Japan, accounts from Indian villages, government records in Singapore, and scars in Egyptian slums.

According to Washington Post writer William Saletan, 40% of people in some villages in Pakistan were discovered to have only one kidney. 2/3 of the recipients of these kidneys are foreigners. The same situation exists in Singapore.

In 2007, approximately 170,000 patients in the United States and Europe were on waiting lists for transplants. The list grows each year and people are dying because of it. Two decades ago, the United States banned organ sales. There is a need to re-assess this ban in order to save lives. Currently, in lieu of organ transplants, patients are on life support to preserve their organs, and doctors have ignored “brain-death” standards, donor age limits and recipient health requirements.

Countries around the world are slowly lifting their bans and allowing organs to be sold. The problem with a global organ market is setting prices, just like any global commodity market. However, as Saletan attests, the key to a legal organ market is to “stop fighting capitalism and start using it.” When there’s demand, there must be supply. Not enough donors are capable and willing to donate. If the United States doesn’t legalize an organ market, somebody else will supply the organs, and it will either be illegally or out of the country.

Source: Saletan, William. “The Organ Market”. The Washington Post. 11/15/07.


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