Human Organs’ Illegal Sale and Trafficking

The sale of human body parts and the trafficking of people for organ removal have become an increasing global problem in recent years. The offense is committed by transnational networks of criminals, including traffickers, international brokers, health professionals, suppliers, and buyers. Various international organizations have developed legal frameworks to combat the illegal trade in human organs. Until 2000, organ trafficking occurred primarily in South Asia (Columb, 2015). However, the problem developed substantially over time and affected hundreds of thousands of people globally. Today, the commercialization and trafficking of people for the removal of organs occurs in Latin America, North Africa, and regions that experience economic turmoil, social challenges, and political instability, which create favorable conditions for traffickers. The illegal trade entails a whole range of activities that seek to commercialize human organs and tissues for transplantation (Efrat, 2016).

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People are trafficked with the primary purpose of removing their organs and transplanting them into recipients who travel abroad looking for paid donors. In the United States, thousands of people die every year in need of liver or kidney transplants that are unavailable (Cherry, 2017). In addition, most patients wait for years to get an organ transplant. During the long period of waiting, the quality of patients’ life deteriorates. In this regard, most people obtain such organs from the black markets, where donors sell organs to ready buyers. On the one hand, supporters of the organ trade believe that the removal of human organs occurs on donor’s consent, and the practice acknowledges such individuals’ as the best judges of their interests (Cherry, 2017). Moreover, donors decide how to utilize their bodies. On the other hand, opponents of human organ trade argue that it undermines altruism, coerces impoverished communities, pervades inequality, and is unethical. This paper proposes the creation of a competitive market policy and examines the benefits of legalizing the commercialization of human organs.

In the current world, it has become possible to save human lives through organ transplants such as livers, kidneys, and liver sections from donors or recently deceased people. A growing body of literature indicates that recipients of human organs wait for years to get them (Cherry, 2017). During the wait, most individuals become unable to perform tasks, and their quality of life diminishes significantly. Furthermore, the patients’ prospects for post-operation survival deteriorates. Some of them die waiting for organ transplants. The continuous gap between the demand for and the supply of human organs, especially in the United States, is attributable to the illegalization of organ commercialization.

Additionally, the demand for such organs is inversely proportional to the cost. According to Columb (2015), creating a competitive market for human organs can be a panacea to the growing social problem. For instance, the framework can bring demand and supply to equilibrium by incentivizing supply from donors. The competitive market implies that patients in need of organ transplants would get them quickly. It would also shorten the period of waiting and improve the quality of life for deserving people (Efrat, 2016). In consequence, the country can record low mortality rates as the prospects of survival after surgical operations improve (Cherry, 2017). Furthermore, the competitive market policy is likely to discourage illegal black markets for human organs, which relate to additional crimes such as human trafficking and money laundering. It is noteworthy that illicit trade in human organs benefits wealthy people while harming vulnerable populations.

The supply of organ transplants depends on altruism, family pressure, or economic challenges. Altruistic people arrange that upon death, their organs can be used to save lives through transplantation (Efrat, 2016). Other individuals offer themselves as living donors for their household members. It is worth noting that altruistic people who may be willing to provide their organs to non-relatives are barred from doing so because of official suspicion for criminal involvement (Cherry, 2017). However, if recipients pay donors adequately, they could receive organ transplants in two ways. First, the incentive would motivate more people to donate organs when they die. The funds would be transferred to their family beneficiaries (Efrat, 2016). However, opponents of the competitive market framework argue that the policy by itself cannot increase the supply and quality of human organs substantially. For example, organs from deceased donors may be unhealthy, malfunctioning, or be infectious. In addition, some relatives may object to the removal of organs from the dead donors, which can delay the transplantation process. As a result, some organs become unusable (Cherry, 2017).

Furthermore, the transfer of organs such as the heart, kidneys, or liver sections from dead donors requires quick action. Thus, it may be challenging to find an immediate matching recipient. The second approach entails inducing people to sell organs while alive. The potential supply of human organs from live donors is relatively proportional to the demand. Advocates of live donation perceive it as appropriate for matching. Additionally, such organs are often healthy and of better quality than cadaveric organs. Cherry (2017) adds that organs from live donors provide more significant benefits to the recipients. For example, organs such as liver-sections can regenerate themselves. Humans can survive with one kidney. Therefore, if donors undergo proper surgery and after-care, they face a relatively small risk (Efrat, 2016). A competitive market policy enhances the quality of life for both live donors and recipients. According to Columb (2015), live donors, especially in advanced countries, report outstanding post-operative quality of life, and the majority of them do not regret their decisions.

In the United States, a competitive market policy can prevent illegal trade in human organs by securing adequate supply to meet the ever-rising demand. The system can also improve the quality of life for deserving patients by reducing the waiting time for operations. Efrat (2016) notes that illicit trade in human organs exposes humans to multiple risks. For instance, in less developed countries, which are the leading sources of illegal donors, perils are often higher because of low hygiene, poor nutrition, improper surgeries, and inappropriate pre-and post-operative care. Notably, empirical research shows that nearly 50% of kidney donors from India and Iran experience bad health after donation, while some people regret the decision (Cherry, 2017). Poor quality of life for both donors and recipients is attributable to misleading information in the illegal market. In this respect, better regulation of the organ trade can improve the situation by ensuring that donors obtain adequate information before making impulsive organ donation decisions (Cherry, 2017).

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Introducing a competitive market policy would allow donors to make informed decisions about compensation for their risks. Moreover, establishing a legal market in human organs from live donors is likely to enable better-placed individuals to accept the perils and burdens associated with organ donation (Efrat, 2016). It is essential to ensure that the market is competitive with little or no substantial barriers to entry. The policy can prevent monopolistic agencies from hiking the prices for organs. A competitive framework is essential to improving the quality of service and increasing efficiency for both donors and recipients. Advocates of legal organ commercialization believe that prohibiting organ sales incentivizes the growth of the black market in live and cadaveric organs. The illegal markets limit organ transplants to a few wealthy people. Columb (2015) posits that illicit trade in organs is perilous because operations are not screened adequately for infections. In addition, organ transplantation occurs without proper matching with recipients (Cherry, 2017).

As such, creating a competitive market policy for human organs is crucial to ensuring that transplants adhere to appropriate standards and involves qualified and accredited surgeons. Evidence-based research indicates that competitive markets promote rivalry among transplantation centers. In turn, such competition encourages patients to be listed for renal transplants. Moreover, competition in organ trade leads to positive outcomes, including a variety of options for patients, lower prices, and improved productivity. Mainly, as organizations seek differentiation strategies to gain a competitive edge, patients benefit from better service quality (Efrat, 2016). Encouraging multiple transplant centers in the legal organ market is likely to protect people from the risks of illegal trade. Therefore, most philosophical arguments against competitive organ markets are invalid. For example, some opponents argue that legalizing organ markets would reduce charitable donations. In contrast, Cherry (2017) maintains that a substantial supply of organs from paid donors would make reductions in altruistic irrelevant. Overall, payments to donors can eliminate black markets in human organs and their adverse consequences.


Cherry, M. J. (2017). Organ vouchers and barter markets: Saving lives, reducing suffering, and trading in human organs. Journal of Medicine & Philosophy, 42(5), 503-517.

Columb, S. (2015). Beneath the organ trade: A critical analysis of the organ trafficking discourse. Crime, Law, and Social Change, 63(1-2), 21-47.

Efrat, A. (2016). Global efforts against human trafficking: The misguided conflation of sex, labor, and organ trafficking. International Studies Perspectives, 17(1), 34-54

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