The topic of organ transplantation is examined from the perspective of three authors: Robert Bellah, Jeremy Rifkin, and Margaret Jane Radin. Introduced by reflections on the development of the justification of organ transplantation within the Roman Catholic community and the various themes raised by the historical study in Richard Titmuss's The Gift Relationship, the paper examines how and in what ways the possible commodification of organs will affect our society and the impacts this may have on the supply of organs.
Annals of Anatomy = Anatomischer Anzeiger: Official Organ of the Anatomische Gesellschaft
BACKGROUND: In recent years the Netherlands has witnessed a steep increase in the number of bodies donated for medical research and training. To explore this upward trend and motives for donation, a survey was conducted among registered body donors in the database of the Department of Anatomy at the University Medical Center of Groningen (UMCG). METHODS: In November 2008, postal questionnaires were sent to 996 people enrolled at the UMCG body donor database. The present study focuses on motives for donation and social background characteristics of the body donors.
Recent years have seen a rise in the number of sociological, anthropological, and ethnological works on the gift metaphor in organ donation contexts, as well as in the number of philosophical and theological analyses of giving and generosity, which has been mirrored in the ethical debate on organ donation. In order to capture the breadth of this field, four frameworks for thinking about bodily exchanges in medicine have been distinguished: property rights, heroic gift-giving, sacrifice, and gift-giving as aporia.
Body donor programs rely on the generosity and trust of the public to facilitate the provision of cadaver resources for anatomical education and research. The uptake and adoption of emerging technologies, including those allowing the acquisition and distribution of images, are becoming more widespread, including within anatomical science education. Images of cadavers are useful for research and education, and their supply and distribution have commercial potential for textbooks and online education.
All attempts relying on pure altruism to meet the demand for transplantable donor organs have failed and continue to fail. The incentive of commercialization of an organ market would seem to be the only practical solution at this time. It is almost impossible to set fixed prices for such priceless items as human organs.
The number of "units" of human bone used during surgical procedures has grown to almost a quarter of a million. Medical demand for such bone is expanding rapidly and the nation's bone-banking system is struggling to grow apace. Unfortunately, because of this growth, bone banks must compete with organ banks for access both to hospitals and to potential donors. This conflict can, and may already be, negatively affecting the supply of transplantable tissues and organs.
... One is struck by the high level of organ procurement charges in spite of the characterization of organ procurement as altruistic. Although the median organ procurement charges in 1988, documented by Evans, ranged from nearly $16,000 to nearly $21,000 (1991 dollars), there was not a penny for the accident victim's/organ donor's family. That some transplant hospitals routinely marked up charges they paid to organ procurement organizations by as much as 200% hardly seems consistent with altruism.
The analogy between gift-giving and organ donation was first suggested at the beginning of the transplantation era, when policy makers and legislators were promoting voluntary organ donation as the preferred procurement procedure. It was believed that the practice of gift-giving had some features which were also thought to be necessary to ensure that an organ procurement procedure would be morally acceptable, namely voluntarism and altruism.