With rare exceptions, Roman Catholic moral theologians condemn the sale of human organs for transplantation. Yet, such criticism, while rhetorically powerful, often oversimplifies complex issues. Arguments for the prohibition of a market in human organs may, therefore, depend on a single premise, or a cluster of dubious and allied premises, which when examined cannot hold. In what follows, I will examine the ways in which such arguments are configured.
This article addresses the ethics of selling transplantable organs. I examine and refute the claim that Catholic teaching would permit and even encourage an organ market. The acceptance of organ transplantation by the Church and even its praise of organ donors should not distract us from the quite explicit Church teaching that condemns an organ market. I offer some reasons why the Church should continue to disapprove of an organ market. The recent commercial turn in medicine can blind us to the problem of an organ market.