Human Dignity and the Organ Trade
Human Dignity and the Organ Trade
Human Dignity and the Organ Trade
The issue of organ trade has imposed significant implications on concepts of morality and ethics. The process, which also incorporates the trafficking human organs, has elicited mixed reactions among healthcare institutions as well as the members of the society. On a factual note though, it is apparent that the rate of organs accessible for transplantation is insufficient globally. Irrespective of this, organ trade continues to be illegal in every state with the exception being Iran. Nonetheless, the practice influences notable ethical concerns especially within the field of healthcare. One of these concerns involves the sustenance of human dignity. It is important for human beings to nurture their lives, and in part, their organs in order to sustain their longevity. To assess this issue, firstly, it is imperative to note that selling organs preserves human dignity as far as it permits independent decision making for the recipient and the donor. Secondly, it is also important to understand that human dignity diminishes when live organs undergo the selling process since they commodify the human individual.
The first perspective offers a valid argument concerning the observation of human dignity in the sale of organs. It emphasizes on the factor of equality in which people are recognized as human beings. Accordingly, restricting organ trade breaches the decisions that people are entitled to concerning buying and selling. This is because such acts are personal decisions and should therefore not be subject to limitations. Nonetheless, in order to understand the essence of this perspective in articulating this issue, it is important to consider certain aspects in relation to the issue of human dignity and in general, ethics. Foremost, understanding the notion of human dignity in operation is primary. Secondly, it is necessary to consider the social attitudes, norms as well as conditions that exert a possible impact on the perspective. Lastly, it is imperative to determine the justification of the perspective on certain actions or decisions in relation to human dignity.
Consequently, the concept of human dignity supports the notion that the life of human beings is sacred from birth to the point of death. This notion accentuates the idea that every person has the right to live and to life itself. The same ideology can also apply considerably in the issue of organ trade. With regard to the principle of human dignity, every person is entitled to make personal decisions regarding their own bodies and their lives without coercion. Because of this, the privilege of autonomy clearly emphasizes the notion of human dignity. Hence, enacting laws that restrict certain forms of trade is actually a breach of this right. Even though such laws are meant to protect people by averting commercial dealings associated with grave harms, they cannot ignore the fact that they are treading on the privileges offered by the principle of human dignity. Nonetheless, it is unsurprising why reimbursement to living organ donors is under the perception that it is a dangerous transaction (Gill & Sade, 2002).
Understanding the views expressed the prohibition of organ trade involves assessing the motives behind such standpoints. On one hand, affirming that an individual possesses the right to take pleasure in life based on organs from other people may mean that one is prepared to impose harm on other persons in order to enhance their health or extend their lives (Kishore, 2005). However, supporting this viewpoint would also mean breaching the right that a person has concerning individual choice and condition. Alternately, relinquishing the prohibitions on organ trade preserves this privilege. Such a viewpoint is actually innate of a realistic and critical person. Indeed, it is impossible to assert such a standpoint without actually considering the downside towards it. Even though Gill and Sade (2002) argue for the payment of kidneys, both authors also express the reality of unregulated organ markets. Based on this, they provide a variety of reasonable points that may validate organ trade.
In addition, the background of both authors serves as a reference point for the ideas they express concerning the buying and selling of organs. From their study, it is evident that both possess a Kantian influence. Accordingly, Gill & Sade claim that restricting organ trade may be ethically impinging since selling one’s organ violates one’s self in return. In addition, selling one’s organ for money commodifies the human body, which also breaches the notion of human dignity (Gill & Sade, 2002). While understanding these factors, the authors argue against these Kantian views. Accordingly, both assert that violation of the Kantian duty does not necessarily justify a lawful restriction on the sale of kidneys. Cohen, however, argues against both authors. According to the author, legal prohibition on organ trade is not solely based on Kantian tradition. In addition, Cohen also emphasizes on the community’s solidarity as another aspect liable for the opposition against organ trade (Cohen, 2002).
These different influences on the authors offer an illustration of the understanding of human dignity. On one hand, human dignity is a rather personal matter based on the way each person serves as an end rather than a means to the needs of others. On the other hand, human dignity is based on a certain set of values that restrict the destruction of bodies. Therefore, if the selling of organs refutes legalization, then such values become diminished and eventually, this dignity is lost. Based on both understandings, it is possible to understand and justify the actions that one supporting the first perspective could take in relation to upholding the particular principle. In relation to the perspective, prohibiting the sale of organs is actually wrong. With respect to an understanding of human dignity, people have the right to make personal decisions concerning their bodies. Therefore, restricting this actually impinges on this right further diminishing human dignity.
The second perspective argues against the first viewpoint. As stated, the first perspective supports the selling of live organs since it does not violate human dignity. According to Gill & Sade (2002), saving the lives of individuals by using human beings as a means rather than an end actually preserves human dignity. However, the second standpoint opposes this based on the notion of the commodification of the human body. In elucidation, the perspective claims that selling organs diminishes human dignity since it effectively sets the human individual as a commodity rather than a living being. Cohen places emphasis on this subject in her response to Gill and Sade. For the author, the concept of human dignity is based on a set of innate values that guide the society in the protection and preservation of life. Therefore, allowing the organ trade diminishes such values and leads to the perception that the body parts permitted for trade are mere commodities irrespective of whether they save lives or prolong them (Marino, Cirillo & Cattoi, 2002).
The aspect of human dignity under emphasis in relation to this perspective involves the preservation of life. According to Cohen (2002), people’s dignity should be respected in order to ensure that each does not incur damage to their lives. This understanding of human dignity does not correlate specifically with Gill and Sade’s ideology. For the author, human dignity does not necessarily constitute autonomy. Even though it is apparent that every person possesses autonomy concerning the decisions they make, it is also important to draw distinctive boundaries that guide such choices. For Cohen, such boundaries constitute fundamental social convictions, which do not permit such free choices. These convictions constitute the respect for human dignity and prohibiting the imposition of serious harm on people’s bodies. Therefore, in relation to the sale of organs, allowing individuals to engage in such trade harms their bodies and thus, violates their dignity, which in context, is morally wrong.
The parties holding this view possess a strong sense of Kantian influence. According to Kant’s Categorical Imperative as stated by Cohen, the sale of organs breaches the notion of human dignity since it commodifies the body (Cohen, 2002). Accordingly, selling one’s organs symbolizes the use of humanity as a means to accomplish a certain end. This is because availing a functional part of the body for monetary gain sets one’s humanity as a commodity. Thus, the commodity, to another person, enables him or her to satisfy his or her needs at the expense of the organ seller. In addition to this thought, the author also possesses influences from a variety of religions such as Islam, Christianity, Jewish and Buddhist traditions. Based on these institutions, Cohen provides an understanding of human dignity by stating that the human body is sacred. Therefore, selling any part of it violates this reverence by commodifying it.
Indeed, upholding this understanding of human dignity influences the manner in which a person acts. Based on this perspective, one fathoms the dignity of a person as sacred and thus not accessible for manipulation. Accordingly, the actions or choices that a person takes based on this perspective involve him or her rejecting the assertion that selling live organs should be permitted. This is because it breaches the integrity of a person’s life by converting the organs into commodities. In addition to this, the humanity of an individual becomes compromised since it undergoes utilization as a means of sustaining the need of another person. This equates to exploitation to an extent. Based on Moniruzzaman (2012) concerning the study of the organ trade in Bangladesh, the sale of organs has led to the commodification of human beings. Such commodification has provided a platform for the wealthy in the society to exploit the poor in order to receive these body parts.
Multidimensionality of Human Dignity
Undeniably, both perspectives concerning the case of organ trade support certain aspects of human dignity. On the other hand, they also provide an overview of the manner in which human dignity is complex and how upholding the same is rather convoluted. The first perspective accentuates the aspects of the recognition of a person as a human being as well as the notion of free will. Indeed, Gill and Sade (2002) state that people possess the freedom to determine the things they will buy or sell. Based on this, there should not be laws that restrict what one decides to do with their bodies. The same thought is also expressed by Radcliffe-Richards, Daar, Guttman, Hoffenberg, Kennedy, Lock, Sells and Tilney (1998). The authors argue that determining whether selling an organ is altruistic is partial since a person has the right to sell an organ irrespective of any reason because at the end, a life is saved.
Furthermore, the second perspective fails to utilize the fact that certain factors, other than monetary compensation, may actually influence the sale of organs. Because of this, some of the reasons established for allowing organ trade are baseless. Hence, regarding this notion, the second viewpoint impedes the aspect of the identification of a person’s humanity. An illustration involves the case in Israel where Palestinian prisoners are seeing to sell their kidneys in order to feed their families. According to Epstein (2007), rejecting the sale of organs based on current bioethical claims is unfair since such allegations do not consider the factors of coercion that may influence persons from selling their organs. Based on the example, the prisoners are in a dilemma as to whether to compromise their lives or feed their children. Irrespective of how it is, such a decision is personal and should therefore be unrestricted.
However, the claim evident in the first perspective impinges the aspects of human dignity expressed in the second viewpoint. Foremost, permitting the sale of organs actually discards the welfare of the person. Indeed, human dignity also involves acting in the best stakes of a person’s life. Hence, allowing a person to avail his or her body part for selling jeopardizes his or her wellbeing and diminishes the foundation of human dignity, which constitutes a range of social convictions. In addition, the welfare of a person is impinged upon especially in cases of exploitation. According to Delmonico (2006), monetary compensation for organs does not necessarily decrease the number of people dying from diseases such as renal failure. In a much wider scope, the fact that selling organs does not necessarily these deaths further indicates negligence of welfare for the donor as well as the recipient.
Accordingly, the first perspective also ignores recognition of human beings as an end, rather than means. Indeed, selling live organs leads to the commodification of humanity. This commodification is negative since it diminishes human dignity (Josefson, 2002). In addition to this, facilitating organ trade influences exploitation of the poor. By establishing a monetary value against a person’s organ, people belonging to poor backgrounds gain the motivation to jeopardize their lives at the expense of money. An example is in India where most individuals are selling their organs in order to reimburse current debts (Cohen, 2003). Based on this illustration, it is evident that the sale of organs utilizes a person as a means in accomplishing the needs of another person. In the end, the value and dignity of the organ seller diminishes as much as his or her life while furthering the wants of the recipient.
In conclusion, the issue of organ trade illustrates the involvement of human dignity as a critical factor. On one hand, allowing the sale of organs for people preserves human dignity since it provides them with the right to make personal decisions. On the other hand, selling live organs diminishes human dignity since it positions the human individual as a commodity. In addition to this, the issue of organ trade further provides an illustration of the manner in which such transaction affects each aspect of human dignity. Understanding the effect on the factors of this tenet offers an illustration of the multidimensionality of human dignity and its complex nature. Nonetheless, the sale of organs continues to present ethical concerns that may actually remain unsolved for an extensive period.
Cohen, C. B. (2002). Public policy and the sale of human organs. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 12(1), 47-64.
Cohen, L. (2003). Where it hurts: Indian material for an ethics of organ transplantation. Zygon, 38(3), 663-688.
Delmonico, F. L. (2006). What is the system failure? Kidney International, 69, 954-955.
Epstein, M. (2007). The ethics of poverty and the poverty of ethics: The case of Palestinian prisoners in Israel seeking to sell their kidneys in order to feed their children. Journal of Medical Ethics, 33(8), 473-474.
Gill, M. B., & Sade, R. M. (2002). Paying for kidneys: The case against prohibition. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 12(1), 17-45.
Josefson, D. (2002). Selling a kidney fails to rescue Indians from poverty. British Medical Journal, 325(7368), 795.
Kishore, R. R. (2005). Human organs, scarcities, and sale: Morality revisited. Journal of Medical Ethics, 31, 362-365.
Marino, I. R., Cirillo, C., & Cattoi, A. (2002). Market of organs is unethical under any circumstances. British Medical Journal, 325, 835.
Moniruzzaman, M. (2012). Living cadavers’ in Bangladesh: Bioviolence in the human organ bazaar. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26(1), 69-91.
Radcliffe-Richards, J., Daar, A. S., Guttmann, R. D., Hoffenberg, R., Kennedy, I., Lock, M., Sells, R. A., & Tilney, N. (1998). The case for allowing kidney sales. The Lancet, 351(9120), 1950-1952.
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