Alternative Solutions to Global Organ Shortages
Global Organ Shortage
Organ shortages is a problem that occurs all over the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a developed nation or not. They in extremely high demand. Since they’re in such high demand, waiting lists have been implemented in order to decide who gets what organ and when. These lists have a first-come first-serve rule. This method is fine because it ignores any kind of wealth or power that allows someone to get an organ over another person. The issue is that it doesn’t take in account for the justice theory of need. Those who need it the most should get it. In the case of organs, those who are dying or are the closest the death, will need it the most but lots of times, these waiting lists are in the way of them being healthy again. In the USA, a developed country, and India, a developing country, each has an extremely high number of deaths but it’s much worse in India. They lack the resources and have the uncontrollably high population which leads to the death of millions each year.
In August 2017, there were 116,000 people on the national transplant list, which includes woman, children and men, and of those 116,000 patients, 34,768 of them received an organ that year. This is about 30% of the patients on the national transplant list actually receiving an organ. Due this shortage, there’s an average of 20 people dying each day while waiting for an organ. These are the statistics from a developed nation where infrastructure and well placed systems like donor cards allow there to be some kind of steady source of organs. It’s a completely different story for a developing country.
In India, 500,000 people die each year due to not receiving an organ. Of the 100,000 woman, children and men the receive liver disease, only 1,000 of them get a liver transplant. Of the 220,000 people that require a kidney transplant, only 15,000 of them actually receive it. In a developing country like India, who has a high population but low infrastructure and inefficient systems for harvesting organs, much more people die. The devastating shortage of organs kills thousands each year so how could this be solved? Could alternate methods of organ transplant such as xenotransplantation solve the issue of global organ shortage?
In this procedure, an organism’s tissue is infused with a human’s in order to fix damaged cells.
As of now, they haven’t gotten this to work long-term and efficiently however, in the future, it will be extremely beneficial for the entire world. Right now, they are having problems with this procedure working long term since organs and tissue from a source outside of the host’s body will reject it. In order to avoid this rejection, they have attempted using immunosuppressants. While this could help the body accept the the transferred tissues, it also leaves the body at huge risk. A weakened immune system makes the body highly susceptible to diseases and infections essentially putting a patient at risk. Xenotransplantation has multiple negative ethical implications which is why it’s important to analyze each of them to see whether it’s worth it or not. One major problem with xenotransplant is that it also harms animals which angers animal right activists and because its mostly in the preclinical stages, the animals that use are just for testing.
Justice – The bioethics principle of justice states that there is a moral obligation to act fairly. In terms of health care and organ transplantation, it’s all about even and fair distribution. Xenotransplantation is a procedure that can cost over 50,000 USD since they need to test animals for diseases and infections. While it does increase the overall available organs, this procedure will be a way for the rich and maybe middle class to bi-pass national waiting lists because they are the only ones that can afford it.
Non-maleficence – The principle of non-maleficence revolves around the idea that we must avoid harm at all costs or if unavoidable, we must minimize it. For xenotransplantation, there are health risks involved that can seriously hurt an individual. Since the process could involve immunosuppressants, leaving the body susceptible to diseases is extremely dangerous and essentially goes against the principle of non-maleficence. There is also the risk that the transplanted animals tissue will be infected too and if infected tissue is transplanted, there’s a high chance that it will kill the patient.
Beneficence – The principle of beneficence means that you do what will benefit the patient most which can be decided based on how it influences their quality of life. As of now, xenotransplantation hasn’t been used to transplant complete organs from an animal which is why it’s difficult to discuss beneficence. If they were to use it right now, the body could possibly reject the organ which could hurt an individual even more so as of now, it’s not the most beneficial procedure to a person.
What if it worked?
If xenotransplantation were to work, it could beneficial for the entire world. That being said, it does go against the bioethics principles above which is why we need to discuss whether or not all the research, money, and time spent, will be worth it. First of all, if they were able to transfer complete organs from an animal and make it work long term, they have increased the overall amount of organs available throughout the world. Even though it will be a somewhat expensive process, middle classes will be able to afford it which means that the poorer individuals will be able to use the nation transplant list to receive their organs. This means that organ transplant lists will decrease because people will be able to pay for their own organs and it will decrease mortality levels amongst populations. So what is the downside to this? There will be animals that are being killed every day for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs. As discussed, it can still leave individuals susceptible to diseases because their immune systems will be weakened in order for the body to accept it. Organ shortage is a global issue that leaves hundreds of thousands of people dead or with an extremely poor quality of life. These numbers only increase as we increase so there has to be some type of solution that can save all those people. Even though there are heavy downsides to this process, the rewards to this, far outweigh the risks in the sense that it can help millions now and millions to come.
- Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Xenotransplantation.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Xenotransplantation/.
- Sifferlin, Alexandra. “Organ Transplants Hit an All-Time High in 2017. But It’s a Bittersweet Win.” Time, Time, 10 Jan. 2018, time.com/5097377/record-breaking-organ-transplants-2017/.
- “Organ Donation Statistics.” Organ Donation Statistics: Why Be an Organ Donor?, HRSA, 31 Mar. 2016, www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html.
- “High School Bioethics.” Xenotransplantation, med.nyu.edu/highschoolbioethics/briefs/xenotransplantation.