Commercialisation of the supply of organs for transplantation

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Internationally, there is a shortage of organs available for organ donation. Human tissue and cells are becoming increasingly valuable as part of commercially valuable biotechnological research. The developments have outstripped the existing legal controls and have led to concerns about the use of human tissue retained after post mortems in England and Australia and the growth of black markets dealing in human organs and tissue. There is a need for ethical discourse about the extent to which such developments should be recognised and controlled by the law. Further, if the supply of organs available for transplantation is to be increased, the systems of consent in many countries are unsuitable. Development of a system in which benefits are available to the donors or their families may increase the supply of organs. If financial benefits are available from biotechnological advances, the people providing the necessary materials in the form of human tissue or organs may believe they have a right to share in the resultant benefits. This paper considers the ethical issues arising from the various systems of consent to organ donation that have been adopted in different jurisdictions. Fundamental to any such debate is the issue of property rights- whether a living person has property rights over their own body and whether there exist property rights to a human body following death. The role of the State is fundamental to such a debate. This paper considers the potential for the commercialisation of the supply of organs and some approaches that might facilitate commercialisation. Aspects of the law contract that might arise are outlined. Overall, the conclusion is that these issues must be addressed by way of legislation. If commercialisation is permitted in some form, this must be carefully controlled to ensure that the vulnerable members of Society are not disadvantaged. It is suggested that any benefit should be provided by the State rather than by way of individual contracts between donor and recipient, to avoid the situation arising where only the financially advantaged could afford treatment.
Organ donation, Organ transplants, Organ supply