The issue of organ donation seems as though it would be simple. When a person dies, he or she no longer needs organs and those organs could be used to save the life of someone else (Appel, 2005). However, the issue is not as black and white as that for many people. Some are very against organ donation because they do not believe in "playing God" in that way. There are ethical, moral, religious, and other reasons why people may be for or against organ donation (Moraes, et al., 2009). In order to understand the issue more thoroughly it is important to discuss the issue from various angles and provide all the information that is needed to make an informed decision regarding organ donation. A person may decide that he or she is for or against donating organs, but that person can and should decide that based on sound knowledge of the issue. Only then will the person be able to really decide what would be best for himself or herself. That will also allow the person to feel morally comfortable with the decision.
For a clear understanding of the moral and ethical issues surrounding organ donation, the history of it must be addressed. Additionally, current sources will be examined in order to see how organ donation has changed over time. If there are better or alternative solutions, those have to be considered. There are also various effects of the issue and they are not only important now but they must be addressed in the future in order to make sure people remain clear on the moral and ethical implications they will face as they decide on organ donation. Fidelity, autonomy, and confidentiality are big parts of the organ donation issue, and when they are not addressed beforehand there can be misunderstandings and regrets for people who have either decided for or against organ donation. There are legal rights for patients as they interact with health care services, and the Patient's Bill of Rights is something all patients should be aware of as they make their decision.
Donating organs means the donation of either an organ or biological tissue (McKinley, 2008; Meilander, 2006; Stein, 2007). Most of the organ donation comes from people who are deceased and agreed to be organ donors after they died (Orentlicher, 2009). Other donation includes living donors who give bone marrow, a kidney, or something else to save the life of a loved one or even a complete stranger (Organ, 2011). There are many more transplantable tissues and organs than a person often realizes, and a surgical procedure is used to remove the tissue or organ from the donor's body. It is then implanted in the body of the person who is in need. It is not possible to just take an organ or piece of tissue from one person and give it to another, however. The organ or tissue must be a match biologically to ensure the body will not try to reject the organ or tissue too aggressively (Schwindt & Vining, 1998). Anti-rejection drugs are still needed, but if the organ or tissue is not a match for the person who is receiving it, the organ or tissue will not work at all and will simply die.
That would negate the value of the transplant, and could even cause further danger to the recipient through infection or other health problems (Stein, 2007). Naturally, that is something that must be avoided, because a transplant recipient is often weaker from both a health and an immune system standpoint. He or she may not be able to fight back against a medical problem as easy as someone who is in good health, so that is something that those who do transplants have to carefully consider when they are making a choice to give someone an organ or tissue from another person. Animal organs can also be transferred into human bodies in some cases (Moraes, et al., 2009; Orentlicher, 2009). For example, some people have pig or turtle valves in their hearts and those valves work just fine. They are close enough to human tissue and they are the right size, so they are able to be used.
Organ donation has been in use for some time, but as it has developed and grown in popularity, and the doctors who perform transplants have found new and better ways to transplant organs and tissues from one person to another, the donation of organs has changed. There are now state registries for organ donation, and most people have the designation on their driver's license if they choose organ donation to help save the lives of others (Stein, 2007). Depending on a person's age and other factors, the number of organs and tissues that he or she can donate can be very different. As a person ages, his or her organs and tissues are not as viable as those of younger people, leading more elderly people to avoid being organ donors. However, it is still possible they would have tissues or organs that could save lives in some cases. Anyone who has no moral objection to donating organs and tissues can remain a donor throughout his or her lifetime (Appel, 2005).
There are both bioethical issues and religious issues that come with organ donation. There are some religious groups that are opposed to organ donation but most see the donating of tissues and organs as a charitable act that is accepted and even encouraged by religion (Organ, 2011). It is very hard for organ donation to take place involuntarily because of living wills, guardianship issues, and patient autonomy, so people should not worry about being organ donors if they have decided that they do not wish to participate in that program (Meilander, 2006). They only need to opt out of organ donation when they are asked about it, and make sure that their living will and other legal documents relating to their medical care and death are clear about the issue. Those who want to be organ and tissue donors should opt in when they are asked and should also make sure they make their wishes clear in writing so that they can provide a chance at life to others when they have passed away from injury or illness. No matter whether a person wants to donate his or her organs, there are choices (Appel, 2005; Meilander, 2006; Moraes, et al., 2009).
When it comes to the issue of deontology, the most important concern is semantics. There are different definitions of life and death depending on the person asked (Appel, 2005). For example, should a person be kept alive artificially so his or her organs can be harvested if that person is brain dead? That is a question that is at the heart of an ongoing debate into medical ethics and what is or is not acceptable for those who want to protect and preserve human life as much as possible. It can cost a great deal of money to keep a brain dead person "alive" in order to keep the organs viable, but the cost of not doing so is something that cannot easily be measured monetarily (Schwindt & Vining, 1998). The other argument on this issue is that willingly giving up an organ is self-harm, which is contraindicated by many beliefs and philosophies all throughout the world (Stein, 2007). With this in mind, those who are considering being organ donors must carefully think about everything that comes with that decision before making it. With the advent of cloning, it is becoming more possible to grow an organ for transplantation, which would negate the need for a donor and would stop that from being an issue (Moraes, et al., 2009; Orentlicher, 2009).
However, the idea of cloning for transplantation has moral implications, as well. The possibility is there that an entire human being could be cloned, and when someone is created for the sole purpose of taking their organs, is that ethically and morally acceptable? Stem cells and fetal research fall into this same kind of category, and it is one that remains very divisive (Moraes, et al., 2009; Stein, 2007). Additionally, there are animal rights groups that are fighting against the idea of people harvesting animals in order to use their organs for human transplantation (Appel, 2005). This is most notable with pigs, but there are other animals that also have the potential to be used in this manner. Most people see human life as being much more important than the life of an animal, but this is not the case for everyone and has to be carefully considered in order to get to the point where an ethical decision - or perhaps an ethical compromise - can be made regarding organ and tissue donation from animals to humans (McKinley, 2008).
Are there other solutions to organ and tissue donation? Right now, there really are no other choices other than using…