Legalization of human organ sales as your research topic

The debate over legalizing the sale of human organs covers a wide range of good research paper topics, such as legal, medical, ethical, and economic controversies.

Do you agree or disagree with the sale of human organs? (Credit:

Do you agree or disagree with the sale of human organs? (Credit:

Some say that legalization will stop organ trafficking, while others believe organ transplantation should only be on a donation basis.

Legal issues

For your term paper, you could discuss the legal actions regarding sale of human organs. In 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act made it illegal to buy or sell human organs in the United States. In 1991 the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended a similar ban. In 2004, WHO urged member states to protect the sick and poor from unscrupulous operators in “transplant tourism,” in which desperate people travel to less-reputable countries for black market organ transplants, often suffering from botched operations. However, like with drugs and prostitution, some say that if we legalize the sale of organs, we’ll cut down on the black market and the exploitation and violence associated with its use.

Medical issues

For a research paper discussing the medical side of the issue, consider that some surgeons see legalization of organ sales as necessary to save lives. Thousands of people die waiting for organs to be donated, and the number rises each year. A wait time of more than five years increases the chances of death. Legalization of organ sales would reduce “transplant tourism.” If organ sales are legalized, doctors recommend medical and psychosocial evaluations for potential donors, with a fixed, tax-free payment to the donor, plus long-term health insurance.

Ethical issues

In the article “Sale of human organs should be legalised, say surgeons” posted in the London Independent by Lewis Smith, January 5, 2011, professor John Harris, an ethicist at the University of Manchester, England, stated that the debate for legalizing organ sales is beyond late in coming. “Morality demands it,” he said. “It’s time to consider it because this country, to its eternal shame, has allowed a completely unnecessary shortage for 30 years. Thousands of people die each year [internationally] for want of organs. That’s the measure of the urgency of the problem.”

Economic issues

Another topic for a paper is economic concerns. According to the article “To Reduce Human Suffering, Legalize a Kidney Market” by James Stacey Taylor, an associate professor of philosophy at the College of New Jersey, said in Buffalo News, July 1, 2012, that taxpayers spent a mind-blowing $29 billion, or 7 percent of Medicare’s budget, on treating kidney failure disease in only 1% of Medicare beneficiaries. Dialysis is far costlier than acquiring and transplanting kidneys, which is better for the patient. The massive shortage of kidneys is what’s driving these incredible costs.

Taylor advocated for legalizing a kidney market, saying: “The solution is simple: compensation. Paying for goods and services will encourage them to provide them. Legalizing a market for kidneys will reduce the health care costs that are associated with the rise in obesity by making it cheaper to treat the kidney disease associated with it.”

Cons – don’t legalize human organ sales

While other body parts can be sold, such as sperm, eggs, blood and plasma, and even hair, some believe that organs are off limits. Purchasing organs would exploit the poor, lead to coerced organ donation and open recipients to unsafe medical practices. In “The consequences of a donor kidney market” by Jessica Pauline Ogilvie, posted March 28, 2011, in Los Angeles Times, Dr. Francis Delmonico, director of renal transplantation at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, condemned the idea of organ sales. He said: “A market for organ sales enables brokers and extra payments, and in a global society, the market could not be restricted to the United States.” Transplant tourism “increases the risk for diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis or malignancy, and it also opens the door to a variety of unethical practices involving the donor and their medical care.”

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Organ Transplantation. 

Do you think we should legalize the sale of human organs? Tell us in the comments.

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