Essay: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Organ Sales

This essay was written as an assignment for my Ethics Across World Cultures class. It is the opposite position to this article which I published a couple of weeks ago, but this second article more accurately reflects my position. However, while I think people should have the right to sell their own organs, I think it would be kind of stupid to do so.

I received a grade of 97 (A) on my first essay, and I received a 97 on this one as well. I am very happy with how both of these assignments turned out.

With the ever increasing demand for organs such as kidneys, livers, eyes, and skin, some people are of the opinion that healthy, responsible adults should be able to sell their organs to the highest bidder. I agree that people should have the right to do with their bodies what they please. The federal government, in prohibiting the sale of organs, is violating the basic premises of the Declaration of Independence. The Preamble to the Declaration reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The government is violating all three of these basic human rights by not allowing organ sales to be legalized.

There are people that will die if they do not receive organ transplants. This is a fact. It is also a fact that people die on a regular basis because there is not a donor readily available. Legalizing the sale of organs could remedy this situation and consequently save numerous lives. By not allowing the legal sale of organs, the federal government is denying some people their “unalienable” right to life. The government is choosing to take that right away from them, and by doing so they are clearly in contradiction of one of the basic tenets that our country is founded upon.

Liberty is one of the most crucial individual freedoms that we as human beings possess. liberty, as defined by, is “freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.” By not allowing people to legally sell their organs, the federal government is clearly taking away liberty from us as human beings. The government is controlling, interfering, restricting, and hampering peoples’ free choices. It makes sense for the government to make it illegal to drive while drunk, as a person’s free choice to do that could in turn harm other people and take away their right to life. However, selling an organ is a very individual decision. It harms no one else, and most likely will not even harm the person in question. In fact, that organ sale does a great deal of good. It may save a life! There are absolutely no grounds for the government to dictate what people can and cannot do with their own bodies in this manner. Again, they are clearly contradicting another one of the basic tenets of the Declaration of Independence

If a person were to sell his organ, he would obviously receive money for it. That is inherent in the definition of the word “sell.” The seller could put this money towards a lot of very good things. He could use it to fund his college education, resulting in a job that he enjoys. In that manner, he would be pursuing his own happiness. Or, the seller could use the resulting money to buy something of value, such as a car. Again, this purchase would also most likely result in happiness. By not allowing people to sell their organs, the federal government is in fact violating the third tenet of the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson included “the Pursuit of Happiness” for a reason: It is a basic human right! We have a right to pursue happiness, and the government should not be able to inhibit that pursuit.

Those opposed to legalizing the sale of human organs may say that it is too dangerous and the seller may be putting his life in danger. Just a few sentences of scrutiny can refute this argument. First, please refer to the paragraph above about “liberty.” No one has the right to tell another human being what and what not to do with his own body when the action is not affecting anyone else. Secondly, even if these sales are not legalized, some will still take place. Since these would be black market operations, the doctors choosing to perform these procedures would have no accountability, and as a result the entire procedure could be conducted unsafely. If, however, organ sales were legalized, the pertinent medical organizations could enact certain sanctions governing how the procedures are performed, thus promoting the safety of both parties involved. As a result, legalizing organ sales would actually create a safer scenario overall.

It is readily apparent that the illegality of organ sales violates our human rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The federal government of the United States of America is in violation of the basic tenets and beliefs that it was founded upon! This is a contradiction in the first degree. Why this is the case, I cannot even hazard a guess. The arguments against the legalization of organ sales are faulty at best. The legalization of these sales would make all of the transactions safer and would help protect the lives of individuals that would go through with the sale regardless of its legality. In conclusion, responsible adults should be completely within their legal rights to sell their organs to the highest bidder.

This essay was also republished as a blog post on Cranial