There is a myriad of ethical issues surrounding the topic on organ transplant in the present Medicare facilities. The issue of transplant allocation relies on the positive public view; indeed there has been evidence that the fairness of an allocation structure affects the organ donation habits and also the willingness of individuals to undergo an organ transplant (Farrell, Price & Quigley 2011). This essay aims to describe transplant allocation as an ethical issue today and afterwards, justify how the four main ethical principles can be applied on this topic of concern.
Transplant allocation is concerned with distribution of body organs to the ailing patients who need them. An organ transplant is a surgical procedure whereby an ailing or an injured organ in the human body is extracted only to be replaced with another one. The donated organ may be from a living donor, a dead donor and even some cases, from an animal. A cadaveric organ donation is in essence the removal of organs from a person who has recently ceased to exist. A living donation on the other hand deals with the donation of one of the paired body organs such as the kidney or a portion of a specific organ. Artificial body organs are at times also used. The organ constitutes a grouping of tissues and cells that are used in the performance of a given body function.
The main ethical issue with the organ transplant structure is caused by the shortage of supply of the needed body organs. The lists of persons who are in need of these organs far much exceed the number of the donors of the very organs. Timulty et al (2010) asserts that due to the fact that the demand for body organs exceeds the supply, it means that some people will necessitate persons to put up with their malfunctioning organs.
Ethical issues in transplant allocation
As stated earlier in this essay, the ethical issues in transplant allocation arise due to the scarcity of the available organs. Tumulty et al (2010) assert that, as the number of those that require organ replacement are on the increase, those that donate them remain stagnant. To explain the trend, Morrison (2010) suggests that, in many of the past years, the main donors were car accident victims who lost their lives on the roads or were persuaded on their deathbeds to donate their organs; but since the introduction of ways to mitigate road carnage, the number of organs has still gone ahead to decrease. One ethical issue arises here, that, is it proper to attach the insufficient supply of these organs to the improved wellbeing of others?
Harris (2008) supposes that, as regards the transplant of these body organs, is it to award a patient who has in the past benefited from the donated organs for the second or third time while others have not had a chance to get the organ they need? As of fact, such an act may look like denying a chance, those who have not had an opportunity to benefit from such an implant.
Another ethical issue that arises is that, how appropriate is it to give an organ transplant to a person who has indulged deliberately in activities that have led to his original organ being rendered obsolete, such as too much drinking of alcohol, drug abuse, smoking, and so on? Giving an organ to a person in a category as such would seem opposed to fairness considering that there are other individuals whose organs have developed malfunctions out of reasons beyond their control.
The counter argument to this rule is that each and every person has a right to life and all that enhances the very life and thus the decision of whether to give or not give a body organ to a person should not be determined based on the prior observance of health rules.
Another ethical dilemma that accrues to the allocation of organ transplants today is whether a person who has ever tried to take away his/her life should be given a chance to obtain an organ transplant. This is an issue because the fact that there was attempted suicide, is in itself makes the person suicidal. This is based on the reasoning that incase that person were to be accorded such a privilege, he would probably “waste it all” by successfully committing suicide at a future date thus he/ she will have denied another patient a chance at the organ. This argument may seem to hold water but there is a possibility that the person may have quit his or her suicidal behaviors. Another argument may arise that an individual’s past actions should not be used as a criterion of establishing the recipients of these organs.
Evans (2010) asserts that age is also an issue as concern in the allocation of organ transplants. Given the growing number of persons in need of these organ surgeries, should medical practitioners use age as a basis for allocating the body organs? Some people would suggest that the elderly people have had their lengthy chance at life and have accomplished much and therefore should give more robust persons who are in dire need of an organ transplant, a chance at life. The counter argument to this approach is that no one can quantify a person’s life and attach value upon such basis.
Four major principles and their application on the transplant allocation
It is imperative to acknowledge that each and every of the four ethical issues does in a way affect the issues concerning the allocation of transplants. They can as well be applied in the resolution of some of the ethical dilemmas in organ transplants. The first principle which is; autonomy, upholds that a person should respect the right of other persons in making their own choices. In this respect, a patient should be told all the ethical issues at play so as he/ she may deliberate on whether to accept the transplant having considered those issues. The second principle; beneficence holds the opinion that all the deeds of the healthcare provider should be focused towards benefiting the patience.
The donated organ should be given to the one in need of it without any favoritism. Age, past deeds of the client and other factors should therefore not determine the recipient of the organ. Third is, non maleficence states that the deeds of the healthcare provider should not injure the client. In the above mentioned cases, no client in need of an available organ should be denied its access as this would turn to injure him/her. The last principle of justice holds that all the advantages accruing to organ transplant should be distributed fairly. For instance no one should be denied an organ transplant at the expense of another.
The issue of ethics in allocating organ transplants continues to be a subject of concern since it is the life of persons that is at stake and medical practitioners are tempted to act unethically. Based on the four principles discussed above, it would be unethical for any healthcare worker to deny a patient an organ on such bases as age, past deeds, and so on. It is therefore important that the healthcare providers adhere to these stipulated rules to enhance the quality of service and foster equity as well as justice.
Farrell, A., Price, D & Quigley, M. (2011). Organ Shortage: Ethics, Law and Pragmatism. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Evans, M. (2010). Being held accountable. Modern healthcare, 40 (20), 6.
Harris, D.M. (2008). Contemporary issues in healthcare law and ethics (3rd Ed.) Chicago: Health Administration Press.
Morrison, E. E. (2010). Ethics in health administration: A practical approach for decision makers (2nd Ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Tumulty, K., Pickert, K., & Park, A. (2010). America, the doctor will see you now. Time, 175 (13), 24.