The attempt to replace the defect organs and tissues with fully functional organs started a long time ago. Organ transplant failed to be successful for a number of attempts because the technology was crude. Determination of the compatibility of organs could not be possible, which resulted in the rejection of organs and tissues by the recipients’ organ systems (Klein, Lewis, & Madsen, 2011). The discovery of blood groups, as well as the invention of immunosuppressant drugs, has facilitated organ transplantation. Transplantation of the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, thymus, pancreas, intestines, skin and cornea have been extremely significant in saving people’s lives across the world. However, myriad ethical implications have faced organ transplantation, which have resulted in the shortage of organs for transplantation to some extent (Jensen, 2011). The number of donors would meet the demand for organs if people were willing to donate organs, such as extra organs. Families of the brain dead individuals should allow the medical institutions to remove organs and tissues from their relatives’ bodies (Wilkinson, 2011).
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Organ transplant refers to an operation that involves replacement of a failing or malfunctioning organ with a fully functional one (Klein, Lewis, & Madsen, 2011). The person who receives the fully functional organ is the recipient while the person who donates the organ is the donor. Organs that can undergo the organ transplantation include hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs, thymus, pancreas and intestines. Many organ donors are brain dead, especially those who provide hearts, livers, lungs, thymus, pancreas and intestines. A few organ donors, especially those who donate kidneys, may be living (Jensen, 2011). People can also donate tissues, such as bones, veins, cornea, heart valves, skin and tendons. Research shows that the most common organs that undergo transplantation across the world are kidneys, livers and hearts (Wilkinson, 2011). The musculoskeletal grafts and cornea are the most common tissues that undergo transplantation worldwide. This discussion will consider the history of organ transplant, ethical implications of organ transplant and the proposed solutions for the issue of organ shortage.
The first successful organ transplant occurred in 1878 when a cadaver served as the donor of a bone (Wolfe, Roys & Merion, 2010). Treatment of leukemia started by providing patients with bone marrow orally, but there was no positive effect. Later on, people treated aplastic anemia successfully by the intravenous injections of bone marrow. The most successful organ transplant started during the twentieth century after discovery of blood groups. This helped the surgeons to determine the compatibility of the donated organs with organ systems of organ recipients. Studies show that the first kidney transplant occurred in 1909 when surgeons replaced a child’s failing kidney with a rabbit kidney (Wolfe, Roys, & Merion, 2010). However, the child passed away after two weeks, which means that the kidney was not compatible with the child’s organ system. In 1936 the replacement of a human kidney with another human kidney took place but unsuccessfully. Kidney transplantation, which involved identical twins, took place successfully in 1954. Heart transplant was successful in 1967 after the beginning of bioethics (Wolfe, Roys, & Merion, 2010). About ten thousand individuals who die every year can donate fully functional organs and tissues, but only a small number ends up as donor due to ethical implications.
Organ donation and organ transplants raise myriad ethical implications, which lead to the shortage of organ donors across the world (Jensen, 2011). Some of the ethical implications include the standardization and definition of death, transplant tourism and trading human organs and tissues. Ethical implications of organ transplant touch all levels of societies irrespective of the socioeconomic status or other dividing factors. The most permeating ethical theories guiding decision making regarding organ transplant include justice and social utility. Social utility holds that a person can receive an organ or tissue from a donor if their Human Leukocyte Antigen matches perfectly (Klein, Lewis & Madsen, 2011). However, due to the presence of immunosuppressive drugs, people can receive organs and tissues from the donor even when their Human Leukocyte Antigens do not match perfectly. Therefore, some people consider justice to be the best guiding principle to determine organ allocation. These people fail to focus on social or medical benefits and focus on fairness by looking at the waiting list of recipients. Some people are against the issue of the brain dead donating organs and tissues because they accept that the brain dead individuals will die after a short while. This leads to the shortage of organs and tissues for transplantation (Wilkinson, 2011).
In spite of the sophisticated technology, the number of those individuals who need an organ or tissue replacement outnumbers that of the organ donors. The chronic organ shortage has become the most significant issue that organ transplantation is facing currently. Acquisition of organs and tissues for transplantation depends on the live donors’ voluntarism and the selflessness of the families in case of the brain dead donors (Wilkinson, 2011).
Human beings discovered the possibility of organ transplantation long time ago. They have attempted to transplant tissues and organs unsuccessfully until recently, after the discovery of the blood groups for the compatibility of organs (Wilkinson, 2011). Invention of the immunosuppressant drugs has also facilitated organ transplant in the contemporary society. However, many ethical issues face the field of medicine dealing with organ transplantation. Some of the issues have contributed into the shortage of organs for transplantation, especially the organs from the brain dead individuals (Jensen, 2011).