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Should The Kidney Market Exist?

The following expresses my opinion on a highly considered medical and ethical dilemma. Should people be allowed to buy and sell kidneys?


Currently in the world an abundance of people are on the waiting list, in need of kidney transplants, yet many people are uninterested in donating their kidneys. Thus many of those in need of kidneys will ultimately suffer, unsatisfied by lack of communal kidney donations. Hence, one may argue, that to buy and sell kidney’s would not only benefit those desperately awaiting kidney transplants, but further those in dire need of money who are able to make income by selling their kidneys. But the problem with creating a market of the buying and selling of human organs does not simply have to do with simple laissez-faire capitalistic market rules, or effects of supply and demand, it is a sort of Pandoras Box. One that will open doors to further chaotic markets, and produce a society more obsessed with money and more revealing of the effects of classism.

Approval of this market encourages that when people are in dire need of money, they should go to desperate measures to make this money. By including among this, the selling of one’s organ, not only can people now buy their ways out of fate, but money now becomes a variable of natural selection. Those with money, will be healthier—gaining organ implants—while those without it will be held victim to their health. Although, humans can survive with only one kidney, if one sells their kidney, they are now vulnerable if their sole kidney fails. This cycle of physical exploitation could burden the poorer socio-economic classes and contribute the widening class gap. Rather than donation coming from an altruistic desire, the incentive of money is one that will very easily corrupt society. If money, such an illusory concept almost, has become so real that people will sell parts of themselves for it, then we see a cycle in which money slowly takes control of our society. This aspect of the question is not so different from the trolley problem. It is as if someone is about to get run over by the train, you are bestowed with the choice of pulling the lever or not doing so, yet now they pay you to change their fate—your moral and personal choice is bought out by money. A thoughtful choice you must make which may define you ethical standpoint and your morality, is now no longer your own choice, rather it is influenced by the lure of money. I believe this goes against the honor and nobility of the act, and even though the kidney may help someone, the action is no longer rooted in generosity. Often the cause of an action is just as important as the consequence.

In opposition to this argument, one may claim that money already controls so much of our lives, and the majority of things done in life are done not in favor of altruism but because there is some form of personal gain attached. For example, doctors, although they may deeply care about their patients, work with the expectation of some form of income. American society is fueled by money and those with less will do more for that money. Yet when that money becomes so deeply attached to the individual, connected to their body—the factor that equalizes us as humans in a world of economic and social imbalance—the value of money over self worth becomes blurred. Because ultimately, the question of whether one should be able to buy and sell kidneys, is not really about kidneys, but rather what legalization could do—it opens the door to the legalization of many other issues. If one is able to buy and sell their body parts, where is the line drawn. Is human prostitution then legal? The buying and selling of children? Selling oneself into slavery? Where does one differentiate between a body part, and a full body, and what becomes legal and illegal becomes inevitably blurred?

Although human prostitution may appear as a disanalogy, it is not meant to be an example of something similar, but rather an example of something which could be legalized for many of the same reasons. Prostitution could be the buying and selling of ones reproductive body parts, in exchange for the pleasure of another person. People desperately in need of money could easily take up this offer in order to generate profit, which would not be so different from the kidney market we are engaged about. Putting worth on any part of the human body, is in my opinion, unethical. A human or a human body part should not have a fixed price or any price whatsoever.

Not only will health defects economically affect these lower classes, but the individuals may rush into selling their kidneys without knowing the full effects. In fact, this process may ironically make the market even less safe. Opponents for the motion of kidney markets will contend that in a regulated market doctors would go through the steps of the procedure and warn patients of the symptoms following the removal of ones kidneys. However, this simply is not enough. Will the incentive of money, some may overlook the consequences, and not fully be submerged in their truth until after they have lost their kidney? They may end up regretting it, and having difficulty in recovery.

Proponents for the buying and selling of kidneys may also claim that although the risks above may be true, the risks are much greater in the black market where the surgeries are not properly and thoroughly completed. Furthermore, legalization would kill the industry in the black markets. However, on the basis that a kidney would have a fixed price, the black market would still exist and have an even greater need for existence. For lower classes unable to afford expensive kidneys, under the black market, humans could negotiate their own deals and prices for a kidney; this option would seem extremely realistic and likely to those unable to accept their fateful deaths and still fighting for their lives and to get new kidneys.

These previous arguments exist under the dynamic that a living human received surgery, sells their kidney, and a patient then receives this kidney. Yet, there is another kidney-market prospective dynamic: a person signs a contract to have their organs donated after their death. The person selling organs would receive money now, with the promise that they would later give their organs to those is need of them. To many this may seem ethically fine. But it would create a condition in which the people awaiting a kidney would ave to rely on the deaths of other people to live. This type of situation would ethically corrupt our society, as people could stage premature deaths and go to extreme ends to have more dead people and simultaneously more kidneys available on the market.

Obviously, the legalization of a kidney market would lead to more problems than it would solutions which is why it should remain prohibited.

The Wise Kiwi Has Spoken

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