Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Human organ trade - a necessary evil? Here's a thought....

The principal arguments in favour of organ trade centre upon the noble and virtuous saving of lives. There is no doubting the benefits that organ transplation bring to suffering patients with end organ failures. Doctors managing such terminal patients are understandably motivated to provide for this life saving option. Balanced against the saving of a life, the potential risks of exploitation of the seller can seem trivial.

There is however, another perspective that is often neglected. In fact I have not come across any readings which have pointed this out...perhaps the truth is too uncomfortably close.

To some extent this resonates with an earlier post on the 'commodification of health care'. I can't help noticing that the proponents of organ trade are either patients/relatives of patients, or doctors/surgeons involved with managing such patients.....and (dare I say it...the Ministry of Health (although it is giving the impression of moving slowly on the issue, there is little doubt it is moving determinedly towards the eventuality).

The question that bugs me is this....' what extent is this move towards legalizing organ trade related to our national strategy of developing health care as an engine of economic growth?'

I would like not to believe they are related, but the cynical part of me suggests that there are clear economic benefits to being recognized globally as a medical centre of excellence engaged in responsible and highly regulatable organ trade and transplant. I hope I am wrong. But here's a challenge to those in the medical profession and the MoH who argue for organ trading as an essentially altruistic life-saving activity..... 'how about removing the profit element from the whole organ trade and transplantation scene?'.

I am not talking about the appropriate reimbursements for the organ seller, but to the enormous profits made by the hospital, surgeons, physicians...and whole chain of health care providers in the wake of any legalization of the organ trade. If this is such an essential, noble and altruistic act, the organ owner shouldn't be the only one to carry the burden of the transaction. Society must do its part...i.e. society must pay the price in the form of an increased MoH health care budget, and doctors their fees. Subsidies for the transplants should be provided, and hospitals and surgeons should forego revenues associated with these and related procedures.

Do it....and see if the proponents are still quite so willing to be 'noble and altruistic'.

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