Morality of Organ Donation Essay
Morality of Organ Donation
During the last century, medical science has taken great developmental strides in terms of how to deal with diseases that formerly were a death sentence for any patient diagnosed with illnesses such as kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and even certain types of blindness. The advancement in the areas covered by these illnesses came about because of the scientific discovery that the human body, just like a car, can accept and use spare parts to replace those organs which have ceased to function. It is this discovery that makes organ donation a good thing. But is it a moral thing to do? Should donations be taken from the deceased or from people who are willing to sell their organs in exchange for cash? Is it moral to take organs from people who do it for money? What about accepting the organs of the dead?
One of the issues that arise in the debate regarding organ donation is that of the treatment the donor patient or the deceased patient is getting while the organs are being harvested. Harvested. It makes the person who is donating an organ sound like a farm crop that is ripe for the picking. We can take consolation in knowing that the patient is already clinically dead and that he or she feels no pain because of it. But the opponents of organ donation argue that it is an inhuman act because the body of the person in question must be kept alive using machines until the very last minute when the recipient is prepared to undergo the transplant procedure. How sure can the relative of the donor be that his relative was really dead at the time that his organs were harvested? Human organs go to the highest bidder on the black market. An enticing idea for an ill intentioned surgeon and his staff.
Before any harvesting can occur, the patient must first be declared to be brain dead. There have been disturbing reports that, there is a possibility that in the rush to take the organs of declared dead patients for the people on the mile long waiting list, the person is mistakenly declared dead. There have been accounts of the supposedly dead donor exhibiting signs of pain as the operational procedure to accomplish the harvesting is being done. If you view organ donation in this light, one would definitely say that organ donation is morally wrong. It is tantamount to legalized murder. But then again, there are those who believe that harvesting organs from the dead in order to use in the living is acceptable based upon the reason that had the patient not died, the organ would still be a healthy functioning part of his system. So why not take the good parts and give it to people who can still use it? Viewing the organ in terms of car usage, one can say that, the organ still has a lot of ride left in it, so why not use it? If he can’t use the organ anymore, why can’t I? Why must the organ die with him when it can still be used by others?
The relatives of those who agree to organ donation say that they take solace in knowing that their relative did not die in vain. When a good functioning heart is donated to a child who was born with a bum heart, or the retina of the deceased is used to give sight to another person, it helps the family of the deceased accept the loss of their loved one. This is because the death of the person close to their hearts ceases to be a death in vain. His death is given reason. That of giving life to another. This is an argument that makes organ donation a morally acceptable decision for most people. It is also a reason that most organ donor card carrying people tell their detractors. To them, death needs to have a purpose and a reason. If it means that they can extend the life of another, then so be it.
One of the most disturbing arguments against organ donation is that organ donation can be considered as another form of cannibalism. Cannibalism can be defined in this regard as the act of taking organs from one in order to use in another. The human body is now viewed as a source of spare parts rather than a person who once had a life and sense of self value. But, is it really cannibalism to undertake a procedure that was meant to extend the life of another? When we harvest the organs for donation from a deceased patient, we do not do it because we want to feast on and ingest the body parts. We do it because it can still serve a useful purpose in another person. What the detractors of organ donation have to remember is that Organ Donation is meant to help doctors accomplish their Hippocratic oath. That of saving and extending lives whenever it is humanly possible to do so. So far, the only life saving procedure that medical science has to offer the suffering and dying is an organ transplant.
Another problem most people have that makes them oppose organ donation is the fact that in the third world countries like the Philippines, the healthy have turned to organ donation as a way to stay alive. They sell their kidney and liver, and other body parts, except for the heart on the black market as a way to earn money. In this respect, organ donation is simply wrong. Body parts do not regenerate and therefore these people risk early deaths if they continue what they are doing. But, if the healthy person is donating his kidney, liver, retina, etc. to his blood relative, then it becomes an acceptable and moral act. I have heard of a son who, after his father was diagnosed with kidney failure, donated his kidney anonymously to his father because the hospital had his father at the bottom of the recipient list. His father died the next year. Asked if he had regretted giving his father his kidney, the son said that he did not. How could he regret it when it gave his father an additional 9 months of life to spend with his family? When viewed in the context of cases such as the previous one I mentioned, organ donation becomes a seemingly acceptable moral obligation.
The one thing that I believe everyone agrees upon when it comes to the morality of organ donation is that the act of donation should not have any financial remuneration for the family of the donors. Organs for sale, organs for bidding, simply leave a bad taste in the mouth. It is socially, consciously, and morally wrong. We are all born with the same set of organs and it is expected to last throughout our lives. Now, except for the kidneys, that we are all born with 2 of, it is simply incomprehensible that one would be willing to part with his organ in order to stay financially afloat. That is like committing suicide in the slowest and most painful way.
Of course there are those who donate anonymously to people they do not even know as a form of repentance for their sins in life. These good Samaritans donate because they have a religious belief that God wants them to donate their organs to those who are in need. They believe that this is a way of spreading God’s love and work. To these people, organ donation is not a matter of morality but a question of salvation of the soul. I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself that these people must be mentally incapacitated to inflict such irreversible harm upon their own bodies. The only thing that we are sure of is that these people are looking for salvation in their lives and will do what they think will help them achieve that. I am not really sure if this is a morally acceptable argument in favor of organ donation but I have been raised to believe that each man has his own way of finding salvation and we are not to question how and why.
One can also view organ donation as a way to establish new friendships and bonds. There used to be a time when it was wrong to contact the family of the deceased organ donor. But these days, it is no longer frowned upon and is even encouraged at times in order to help the family of the deceased cope with the death of their loved one and in the same process, help the donor recipient get to know about who the donor was and the story behind the donation. It helps the recipient realize how special his situation is and that he should not take the organ donation process for granted.
Currently, there are about 82,000 Americans awaiting one form or the other of organ transplant. Of this number, a staggering 60% will die before even getting to the middle of the recipient list of the hospitals. All over the country, there is an organ recipient list numbering at least 53,000 in total with a new name being added to the list every 16 minutes. I believe it would be nice to know that there are people out there who carry a donor in the event of a life ending situation occurring for them. These are the people who will continue to live on in the hearts of the people who survived because they were guided by the moral belief that organ donation is all
about giving some one else a chance to go on living with your help from the beyond.
The morality of organ donation is something that will probably divide the medical community and families for decades to come. That is understandable because doctors swear to protect and extend lives, not wait for a patient to die and then think about recycling his healthy vital organs as if he were considering trash recycling methods. For families, there will always be those who will want to bury their loved one with all his body intact. So that they can remember him as he was during life. There will also be those who will want to donate their organs or the organs of their family members because of the way they can think of their loved ones as still living, but in the body of another person already.
There are good, acceptable moral aspects to organ donation. Questions regarding its moral acceptance will also continue to abound. What everyone has to accept is that until science finds another way recreate the worn down body organs of people, maybe by the equally debatable and scandalous methods of DNA cloning, stem cell research, or other new fangled methods of saving lives, organ donation is the only viable option available to people who need what can be considered as new body parts at the soonest possible time. Until an acceptable alternative is discovered, I will advocate that organ donation is a good thing to do for our fellowman when necessary.
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