Organ transplantation is a process by which an organ or tissue is surgically removed from one person’s body (donor) to another (recipient). Organ transplant are an option when a particular organ is failing or absent (Winters, 2004). Kidney failure, heart disease, lung disease and cirrhosis of the liver are all conditions that can effectively be treated by transplant. Most of the organs and tissue donations occur after the donor has died though some organs and tissues can be donated while the donor is alive. For example, the kidney and the liver may be transplanted from a living donor since people are born with an extra-kidney and the liver is regenerative. There has been a debate over whether organ transplant should be legalized with various countries increasingly passing legislations which allow for the practice. The major argument in favor of the transplant is that it helps the patients to live a longer and a healthy life.
Process for Eligibility of Transplant experienced
It should be noted that organ transplant can only be considered as an option when medications and surgery has failed to manage the failure and the progression of the particular organ. In such situations, the transplant is then considered as a treatment option. However, before one is placed on the transplant list for any organ transplant, they must undergo a careful screening process (Winters, 2004). The process involves a review by diversity of professionals comprising of the doctors, nurses, social workers, and the bioethics. This team reviews the patient’s medical history and carries out a psychosocial evaluation to find out if the patient is able to survive the particular organ transplant procedure. They also find out the possibility of the patient complying with the recommended continuous care after the transplant (Winters, 2004).
Tissue typing is also done during the evaluation to identify genetic markers on white blood cells. Other blood tests are also done to determine the compatibility of the pair. The evaluation of the patient’s support system is also done for clinic follow-ups and the subsequent medical care. Once the person passes this screening test, he/she is then placed on the waiting list until a matching donor becomes available (Winters, 2004). During this time, the patient will closely be monitored by the health care team to keep the organ failure in control. Once a matching organ is obtained, the transplant then takes place (Winters, 2004).
Health and Emotional Risks of Transplants
While transplant surgery is a cure for some patients, it has comes along with both health and emotional risks. Many survivors and caregivers experiences problems such as fatigue which is common medical condition for transplant. Almost all survivors feel weak exhausted and slow during recovery. Another common problem with survivors is anxiety which normally occur because most of them are always either worried or afraid of their condition. The patients are normally worried that they may return to their original state (Center for Bioethics, 2004). The specific risks related to transplant include;
Organ acquisition related stress: In most cases, patients with organ related complications seem to believe that an appropriate donor must have died for them to secure an organ. Studies have also found out that in cases where the recipient dies, the donor may be stressed up by the feeling of a total loss.Second is alcoholic addiction related stress. Because of the overwhelming temptation to take alcohol, alcoholic addicts waiting for organ transplant always find it difficult having to battle with the temptation. They may find it extremely difficult to maintain sobriety while abstaining as per the medication requirement.
The third emotional issue is related to obtaining the organ from a living donor. The process of recovery after one donates an organ may in some cases be longer than expected.Some donors also develop complications after surgery. It is also common among the recipients to have a feeling of owing the donor.In cases where the transplant results into any surgical complication, the recipient may begin feeling feel guilty for having caused these problems. A donor who assisted a person whose situation was caused by drug abuse may be very sensitive to seeing the person drinking again.
Forth issue is related to pregnancy after organ transplantation. This is normally experienced by the women patients who are still in their child bearing age. Such women normally worry about their ability to become pregnant and the effect the anti rejection may have on their unborn child. This is even more complicated among those who are barred from conceiving by the doctor. Fifth is the effect of transplant on children. In most cases, a child who has gone through organ planting may require mare limits in their behavior than is the case with normal children. These may affect their self esteem especially when they don’t understand why their behavior is being restricted (Center for Bioethics, 2004).
Organ transplant may also result into stressful relationships especially if it results into a long term illness. Adolescent patients who want to be independent may be stressed from having to depend on others. Finally, there are also a number of physical changes that are usually experienced by most organ transplant patients. The changes which may include weight gain, fluid retention and rounded face may cause mood swing and the emotional changes which are difficult to predict and harder to deal with (Center for Bioethics, 2004).
Laws against Organ Sale
Various policy makers in this field have argued that with proper regulative mechanisms, organ sales can be beneficial for both the patient and the donor. The most often sited argument in favor of organ transplant is that it helps the patients to live longer and healthy lives. The disparity in the low supply of organs for transplant has promulgated legislation and case laws. The laws seek to regulate the sale of the organs and to help establish equitable national system of how to best allocate the organs. The laws were promulgated to address a variety of medical, legal and moral issues involved in organ donation and transplantation (Fredrick, 2010). They include;
The revised Uniform Anatomic Gift Act of 1987. The Act prohibited the sale of human organs and tissues with the exception of blood, sperms or human eggs. Another Act is the National Organ Transplant Act which expressly forbade selling human organs across state lines. The act made the sale of organs a federal crime. It prohibited the payments to those who provided the organs for transplantation. Though, it was designed to prevent the sale from the living donors, it also prevented the possibility of individuals selling the right to harvest their organs after their death .
The third law is the Patent Self-Determination Act of 1991 that established the issue of donor cards. The cards can not be issued to those who are under the age of 18 years. It therefore made it difficult for them to donate organs. Elsewhere the Transplantation of Human Organ Act passed in India in 1994 made the sale of organs a punishable offence.
Reasons why Organ Transplant can be Beneficial
Organ sales would save peoples lives. Various proponents of organ transplant have argued that there is no reason for people to die if there is a way of saving them. Legalizing organ sales is also the most efficient measure of increasing the organ supply. Heather argued that the patients have the right to regain normal life.
Secondly legalizing the sale of organs will discourage the existing black market (Heather, 2003). These practice has led to killing of people like was witnessed in China in 1998 when smugglers were found with 50 freshly harvested organs from prisoners. Corrupt Chinese officials are also making huge money by selling organs to rich foreigners. Legalizing organ sales will compel the brokers to resort into offering a cheaper alternative to potential recipients. This will enable the patients to save part of their money and while greatly reducing the length of time for which they have to wait. At the same time, it reduces the risk involved in receiving organs through a black market. An example is the case of Malaysia in 1994 when five kidneys purchased from India were found infected with HIV virus (Heather, 2003).
Third, legalizing organ sales will also reduce the amount of money the government spend on Medicare and thus help save government money. For example in US dialysis will cause Medicare $240,000 while the patient with a new kidney will only cost $160,000 (Heather, 2003). This will enable the government save money to improve the life of its citizens. Forth, legalizing organ sales would possibly encourage more people to donate the organs. This is because of the possible compensation to the donors for the risk and time involved. Studies have shown that despite the willingness to donate organs by nearly 69% of Americans, the donation is currently merely around 4,000 people annually. Many people confessed that they are afraid of donating their organs to strangers because of the risks involved.
Finally legalizing organ sales will protect the individual’s right to choose. According to Hither, “the decision to assume risk should be made by the individual.” He argues that “there is no different between legalizing the sale of blood platelets, eggs and sperms while legally denying people the right to sell other organs.” They also argue that the individual will make decisions which reflect their need for money which is necessary for meeting their basic needs.
In conclusion it is therefore clear that irrespective of the many arguments against organ transplant, legalizing organ sales can be very beneficial to both the donor and the recipient. It will save more lives as many people are encouraged to donate organs. Such a move will result into an affordable medical cost for patients. The government will also save both the money that it spends on Medicare while greatly reducing the risks involved in black market enabling it to save and improve the lives of its citizens.