Essay: Don't Sell Your Body

I wrote this essay for my Ethics Across World Cultures course. The question we had to answer was "Should responsible, healthy, adults be able to legally sell their organs to the highest bidder?" We had to pick a side, it didn't matter which, and defend it. I chose to argue against because I believe there are many more reasons why this shouldn't be legalized than there are for it. However, on a personal level, I believe that we should have the right to sell our organs, but I don't believe that we should sell our organs. 

Obviously, I may have argued against my own side here, but it was simply for the sake of the assignment. I did a good job, too: my grade was a 97.

With the ever increasing demand for organs such as kidneys, livers, eyes, and skin, some groups are of the opinion that healthy, responsible adults should be able to sell their organs to the highest bidder. I disagree. I think there are at least four very sound reasons for the United States to keep our policies on this matter as they currently are. First, the seller’s life could be put in very real danger in multiple ways. Poor people may never be able to get organs because nobody would remain an organ donor. There is a serious possibility that people could be coerced into selling their organs. Finally, sellers may not get as much money as they were hoping for due to the increase in supply.

First, if people sold their organs, their lives are put in danger by the process. Any serious, invasive surgery carries risk of infection and complications. Having an organ removed would definitely fall into the category of ‘invasive.’ Also, if a man sold a kidney at a point in his life when he is healthy, that does not mean that down the road he will not have kidney problems. What happens if he has a complication with his remaining kidney at some point in the future that would not have affected his other kidney? Instead of having another kidney in reserve, the original seller is forced into the position of organ buyer.

If organs became a commodity simply to be bought and sold, poor people may never have a chance to receive an organ if they are in need of a transplant. While proponents for the voluntary sale of organs may argue that poor people will still be able to receive donations from people killed in car crashes like they are today, they would most likely be wrong. If a father or mother died in a car wreck, instead of donating their organs to help people simply out of the goodness of their hearts, it is much more likely that they would will their organs to their surviving family members such as their children. In this way, the surviving family could sell the organs and receive some money in return. Doing so could act as a type of additional life insurance policy for the family and help provide for those left behind. The poor people would simply be out of luck.

Third, people should not be allowed to sell their organs because it is possible that they could be coerced into doing so. There are many circumstances where this might happen. For instance, if a person dug himself into a deep hole of debt, his creditors may exert significant pressure in order to get him to sell his organs to pay off his debt. In another circumstance, a person may be dying. The dying person might have some serious information about someone else that they would not want to become general knowledge. If no other organs are currently available or if the prices are too high, the dying person might be able to blackmail the second person into selling his organ for a cheap price. There is no guarantee that people selling their organs would be able to do so entirely of their own free will. There could be any number of reasons factoring into the decision in their minds, and some of them might not be of their choosing.

Proponents for legalizing the sale of organs may say that this would be an excellent way for people to earn some significant cash with parts of their body that they do not really need. The money could be used to pay for college, a down payment on a home, or some other large, life-altering purchase. However, this is simply not the case! According to the laws of economics, when supply of a product increases, the price naturally decreases. If the sale of organs was legalized in the United States, supply would explode and price would fall drastically. Take the Philippines, for example, where kidneys can be bought and sold legally. According to a 2007 article posted in the Med-Tech section of, the average price paid for a kidney in the Philippines is only 3,000 U.S. dollars. There is a very high supply of poor people wanting to get some cash for their kidney and as a result, the price is, in my opinion, relatively low.

Legalizing the voluntary sale of organs would be a grave mistake. As I have pointed out in my arguments above, the seller’s life would be put in danger, poor people would not be able to receive organ donations, people could be coerced into selling their organs, and sellers really would not receive much money anyways. With these reasons along with many more against the idea, I think the conclusion is apparent: Policies regarding the sale of organs in the United States should remain as they are.

This was published as a blog post on Cranial Collision as well, as it fits the topic of "Theology, Philosophy, and Life."