Organ Donations or is it Organ Trafficking – Fueling the Status Quo

In the event of my death, I’ve opted to be an organ donor. Reading “The Global Traffic In Human Organs” I’ve come to second guess my judgment. Having lived in India and the Middle East, I am no foreigner to the many reports of the trafficking of organs – both legal and illegal. It comes as no surprise that there are desperately poor people, who have little choice but to sell a kidney to pay for life’s other needs. Similarly, I’ve read chilling reports of entire villages traumatized by kidnappings, where victims were cut up and their kidneys stolen. I’ve signed petitions against the harvesting of organs, many occuring in prisons across the world. My reaction then and now has been one of disgust at this trade between the hopeful rich and hopeless poor. This article, however, gave me pause for another reason. The authors presented organ transplant as hubris, an unwillingness to accept that death happens, and a willingness to extend one’s life even if it meant shortchanging the donor of well-being and even life itself. Further, according to this report, the recipient of a heart transplant, for instance, is not exchanging death for health. Rather, he/ she is swapping imminent death for a prolonged death - “exchanging one mortal, chronic disease for another.” “That patients will have a condition similar to AIDS and that in all probability they will die of an infection from resulting from the suppression of their immune system.” Now that was something I hadn’t heard before. Nor had I heard that such is the competition between hospitals as well as transplant surgeons that perfectly good organs are disposed off “rather than allowing the competition to get at them.” That kidnapping and illegal means were really unnecessary given the vast number of poverty stricken people who’d only too willingly give up an organ if it could buy them some bread. People of every race and every nation are involved in the trafficking of organs. Child prostitution, child labor, bonded labor, selling your children to make ends meet, marriages between old men from the Middle East and girls barely at puberty, female infanticide, and now this. Straddling this list on one end is poverty and on the other is the cold-hearted willingness to use another human being's desperation to one’s advantage. It is far more gruesome but in some ways not unlike the times families in South Asia employ child labor to do the housekeeping, or babysitting, saying “such is life. At least we're giving this child food and shelter and an income, and if we don't hire this child as help, surely someone else will." Do patients waiting for a kidney transplant from a poor woman imagine, "at least it's allowing her to feed her children?" Is that how men purchasing women and little girls rationalize their choices? Yes, isn't this how we are complicit in fueling this horrific status quo?