Organ donation

From ArticleWorld

Organ donation represents the removal of tissue or a specific organ from the body of a dead or living donor, in order to use it in a transplant operation. The removal is performed in a manner similar to a surgery and leaves no external signs (unless, of course, the removed organ is a limb or exposed tissue like skin).

Modern society confronts with a number of issues regarding organ donation. The major issues are discussed here.


Organ shortage

Organ shortage seems to be the biggest organ donation-related issue of today's society. With advancements in the domain of organ transplant, such operations are less risky and become more mainstream. However, the waiting list of those waiting for a transplant is estimated at 90,000 people only in the US. Many patients die waiting for a transplant.

There have been a number of attempts to solve this. Monetary incentives for donors, opt-out systems and social programs like LifeSharers have been the most successful.

Socio-political issues

Even when organs do exist, there are some issues related to the way society and political authorities view organ transplant. The canonical example is the one of the alcoholics in need of a liver transplant. Many people believe that alcoholics should not be given livers, since they achieved their condition voluntarily and perfectly aware of the risks, while others consider that alcoholics should have the same rights as other, since alcoholism is a medical condition.

Some countries' laws enforce anonymous organ donations from dead persons. For example, in Spain, organ donation is perfectly possible unless the deceased expressly declined it. The system is opt-out: family consent is still required, but the conditions are there in order for people to reject being donors instead of consenting.

Medical safety issues

The greatest risk is that of spreading disease because of insufficient medical check of the donated organs or tissues. Organ checking is more difficult than blood checking, because it has to be done very quickly, since organs cannot survive outside a body for a long time. Reports of victims infected with herpes, cytomegalovirus or even rabies have been signaled in time.

Bioethical issues

Deontological disputes in bioethics are common, and the main philosophical problem occurs when dealing with the definition of life and death. For example, bioethicists have argued whether a brain-dead person may be considered dead and taken into account as donor or not. The arrival of the possibility of cloning in order to develop healthy organs genetically similar to the one of a patient requiring transplant has also been disputed.

Theological issues seem to be the most pregnant, however. Some religions do not allow their practicants to have organs transplanted -- either received or donated. Despite this being fairly uncommon (some religions even encourage donations, seeing them as charitable and ethic), patients die -- either because a potential donor receives this perspective, or because the patient himself declines suffering an organ transplant.