Transplants are a great step forward, and many people today owe their lives to an organ transplant. Increasingly, transplants have proven to be a valid means of attaining the primary goal of all medicinethe service of human life.
About 54,000 Americans are currently waiting for organ transplants. Healthy organs are in extremely short supply. On average, ten people a day die waiting for a donated kidney, heart, lung, or liver, according to HHS statistics.
Advances in medical technology and science have made organ procurement, the search and transfer of organs and tissue from one body to another, a very important issue. Since the demand for healthy organs far exceeds the supply, many questions enter the debatethat blends medicine with politics, ethics, research, religion, and other concerns. As health care costs continue to skyrocket, many critics are arguing that our health care dollars are being misused. In particular, they argue that expensive procedures, such as organ transplants for indigent people, cost taxpayers $100,000 or more. They argue that people who do not abuse their bodies should have preference over indigent people. They argue that a transplant recipient with a healthy life style has a greater chance of survival since organ transplants are not without challenges. For instance the human immune system is the body's main defense against infectious organisms. In this capacity it works like a well-drilled army. Although the immune system is essential for life, when a person needs an organ transplant, the immune system suddenly becomes a deadly force, attacking and destroying the implant.
Value judgments are at the very core of the transplant selection procedure. Factors such as duration of benefit inherently employ value judgments. What constitutes a substantial benefit? Considering that every person on the transplant list will benefit from a transplant, how do you decide which person benefits the most? Does a person receive a transplant simply because his/her life will be prolonged, or does the quality of the life prolonged matter?
|©2002 Agnieszka Barwacz-Riou and Golden Hills School Division #75 and Galileo Educational Network Association|