Monday, November 3, 2008

Human organ trade - a necessary evil? Whoa....eggs for sale...???

I was astounded by the timing of the BAC (Bioethics Advisory Committee) 's report, released yesterday on the donation of eggs for research. It is an excellent document, and a very timely one....but the timing of it, being so closely juxtaposed with the recent comments by Minister of Health on amendments to the HOTA (Human Organ Transplantation Act) really blew my mind.

Are they related? Or course they are? Are they consistent with each other....? Totally not!!!

The BAC says....No commercialization. Period. No compensation beyond transport, time and inconvenience. Period. I don't necessary disagree. But the BAC conveniently forgets that the whole purpose of egg research is the generation of a commercial advantage. Only the naive would think that egg research, as currently carried out is completely altruistic. Because if it is, then we should ban any attempt to patent and commercialize the outcomes. Why place the entire burden of altruism on women? Has the BAC blinded itself? Absolutely!

The reimbursement of organ donors...(read payment of organ sellers)... surely cannot be limited to reimbursements of transport, time and inconveience. Inconsistent? Absolutely. Are the 2 activities really that different, after all one can argue one is for 'research' and another for a treatment option? Errrr.... An academic difference at best. Shouldn't they both be governed by the same set of ethical principles that forbid the heinous commercialization of body parts? Shouldn't they both be dictated by altruistic motives? Inconsistent? Absolutely.

Clinical trial volunteers are reimbursed fantastical amounts for participating in drug studies. Sources tell me these 'reimbursements' can be in the range of $10,000. No mention of commercialization of body parts here. No need to be altruistic here. So its okay to reap huge profits while taking part in risky drug trials but giving up an egg must be strictly altruistic? Where is the logic? Where is the consistency?

I am just waiting for the body of blood donors to now jump onto the band wagon. These poor donors are lucky if they get compensated beyond a cup of tau chui and one png kueh at HSA's Centre for Transfusion Medicine. Inconsistent? Bloody!!

I just wish the BAC could have taken a more holistic view of these ethical issues and used the opportunity to develop a more consistent set of principles for us all. I am disappointed this august committee have chosen just to be politically correct.

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