A legal market in organs: the problem of exploitation

Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (1):51-56 (2014)
Abstract
The article considers the objection to a commercial market in living donor organs for transplantation on the ground that such a market would be exploitative of the vendors. It examines a key challenge to that objection, to the effect that denying poor people the option to sell an organ is to withhold from them the best that a bad situation has to offer. The article casts serious doubt on this attempt at justifying an organ market, and its philosophical underpinning. Drawing, in part, from the catalogued consequences of a thriving kidney market in some parts of India, it is argued that the justification relies on conditions which are extremely unlikely to obtain, even in a regulated donor market: that organ selling meaningfully improves the material situation of the organ vendor. Far from being axiomatic, both logic and the extant empirical evidence point towards the unlikelihood of such an upshot. Finally, the article considers a few conventional counter-arguments in favour of a permissive stance on organ sales
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