Treated as commodities and masked as a gift the harvesting of ‘fresh’ organs has become more and more of a controversial topic and one of considerable interest to medical anthropologists around the globe as transplant tourism continues to expand crossing geographic and ethical boundaries. Within the ‘biomedical perspective’ that individuals who are either donors or recipients of a ‘fresh’ organ have, ‘fresh’ organ transplantation is viewed as an ethical procedure, but to what extent and by what means? This question can be answered by looking at how ‘fresh’ organs are viewed/thought of, or in other words by answering if ‘fresh’ organs are commodities or a gift. To respond to this question, I will be discussing four major parts of this issue including what (the views of ‘fresh’ organs)/ why (the reasons for using ‘fresh’ organs), who (who are the recipients and donors), and finally the outcomes.
‘Fresh’ organs are defined as organs that have been removed from a living and healthy donor. The procedure to obtain a ‘fresh’ organ is extremely invasive and just as in any surgery it can have severe complications both during and after the procedure is complete. The introduction of the use of ‘fresh’ organs as a viable way of obtaining organs needed for ill patients was introduced after there were no longer enough cadaver organs to help the number of patients in need of a donor organ. When this idea was first presented as can be expected red flags went up. For example in the US, the Hippocratic oath specifically the portion reading ‘ first do no harm’ seemed to clash with this new procedure, but bioethics quickly cleared up this issue by justifying the procedure with two points:
‘(a) the assuran...
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...Facing Human Dignity. ' (Michael, "Medical Exploitation and Black Market Organs: Profiteering and Disparities in Global Medicine", p. 1)
The issue of masking the use of ‘fresh’ organs as a gift to justify their use as a commodity is still present. The reasons for this occurrence are many, but they all stem from the basic economic principle of supply and demand. This issue has surpassed both geographic and ethical boundaries far enough that brain death in some countries is something that may be redefined in the future (Ikels, 2013, p. 99) along with the practices of ethical organ donation for poor individuals to get money so that they can survive (such as in the Philippines) (Scheper-Hughes, p. 161). All of these things collectively come together to define ‘fresh’ organs as nothing more than a commodity, in the practice of transplant medicine, which is called a gift.
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