The controversies surrounding the ethical and social consequences of
permitting the sale of organs (essentially kidneys) for transplantation are
at once intense and perplexing. The intensity is easily understood because
both sides of the debate believe that the stakes are very high. Proponents
look to the sale of organs to resolve a life-or-death situation. Since the
number of patients who have end-stage renal disease and are awaiting a transplant
far exceeds the supply of organs, individuals who cannot survive despite dialysis
treatment or lack access to it will die unless a kidney is available. As a
dialysis patient who was also a member of the British Parliament declared
in resisting a ban on commerce in organs: "Those who want organs want them
now because life is finite."1 Opponents, on
the other hand, perceive sale as an egregious exploitation of the poor, a
literal pound of flesh, whereby those without resources must sacrifice bodily
integrity for those with resources.2
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