Organs For Sale


Last year, my aunt and uncle moved out of their house.  As part of their downsizing, they had to get rid of their home electronic organ.  They couldn’t sell it; they even had a hard time giving it away.  If Aunt Marie and Uncle Roy had a different kind of organ to offer, people would have beat a proverbial path to their door.  The demand isn’t for Hammonds, but for kidneys. 

Kidney transplants used to be considered miraculous.  Today, they are almost routine.  Unlike heart transplants, kidneys can be removed from living donors.  In God’s amazing design, the human body can function with just one kidney.

The number of people needing kidneys keeps growing—to more than 50,000—but the number of kidney donors has stayed about the same for years.  Nearly 5,000 patients died in the US last year, waiting for a kidney.

They are desperate, and some are willing to pay for a kidney that no one can be found to donate.

The United States, and most other nations, have a strong policy against selling human organs. But, it’s not always honored.  For example, even though India officially bans the selling of organs, organ trafficking is a serious problem.  The donor is usually poor and vulnerable to exploitation.  One desperate man sold his kidney to pay for his daughter’s operation. In some villages, more than half of all adults have only one kidney.

This summer, the FBI exposed a kidney trafficking ring in Brooklyn.  The so-called “donors” came from Israel. They were coached to pretend to be friends or relatives making an altruistic donation.  The middleman charged the kidney recipients around $160,000, but gave only $10,000 to the donor.  By comparison, some kidney donors in India received $700 or less, or nothing.

Is there anything wrong with selling body parts?  Some say “no.  It’s my body, and I can do what I want with it.”  This idea is what we call autonomy.  But, autonomy  presumes that there is an uncoerced choice.  The usual donor is poor, and the poor are particularly vulnerable to coercion.  They are not valued as people, but seen as possessors of a valuable commodity.

Their relationship with the recipient is not one of sacrifice and gratitude.  One study showed that over half end up hating the recipient, and nearly all donors dislike how they are treated by the recipient.  After all, the sick patients weren’t given a precious gift for which they are grateful; they purchased a medical necessity from an anonymous source. 

The answer to the kidney shortage is not to legalize selling organs.  It’s to creatively encourage organ donation.  As Christians, we know our bodies are not our own, but we can give them away to others.  Unlike Aunt Marie and Uncle Roy’s electric organ, this is a gift that can save another person’s life.  Think about it.


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