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Trade in kidneys is ethically intolerable

Dominique E Martin

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2016.049


Abstract

In India, as in most countries where trade in human organs is legally prohibited, policies governing transplantation from living donors are designed to identify and exclude prospective donors who have a commercial interest in donation. The effective implementation of such policies requires resources, training and motivation on the part of health professionals responsible for organ procurement and transplantation. If professionals are unconvinced by or unfamiliar with the ethical justification of the relevant laws and policies, they may fail to perform a robust evaluation of prospective donors and transplant candidates, and to act on suspicions or evidence of illicit activities. I comment here on a recent paper by Aggarwal and Adhikary (2016), in which the authors imply that tolerance of illicit commercialism in living kidney donation programmes is not unreasonable, given the insufficiency of kidneys available for transplantation. I argue that such tolerance is unethical not only because of the harmful consequences of kidney trafficking, but because professional tolerance of commercialism undermines public trust in organ procurement programmes and impairs the development of sustainable donation and transplant systems.

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