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The Harvesting and Sale of Organs on the Black Market

Matthew Ford

Pulaski Academy

The harvesting and sale of human organs on the black market is a moral and

ethical dilemma that plagues the international community. According to the United

Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, organ trafficking is a

component of human trafficking. Three categories of organ trafficking have been

identified by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. The

first category involves people being forced into giving up their organs. The second

concerns individuals that agree to sell their organs but are not paid the agreed upon

price. The third involves vulnerable people having their organs removed without

their knowledge during an operation for an issue that may not actually exist

(Wagner, 2014).

The instances of organ trafficking have increased significantly due to the

growing need for lifesaving organ transplants Approximately 123,000 men,

women, and children are currently waiting for organs, and an average of 25 will

die each day (Wagner, 2014). Those in need are willing to pay vast sums of money

for life saving organs. Unfortunately, high demand has created the dynamic of

organs being channeled from poorly to richly developed nations, and from the

global South to the global North (Perry, 2015). The desperate poor often resort to

selling their organs for financial gain and are commonly taken advantage of. For

example, in 2010 the World Health Organization estimated that about ten percent

of all transplanted kidneys worldwide were illegally obtained and approximately

10,000 black market operations involving purchased organs occur annually

(Wagner, 2014).

Biomedical Engineering offers new solutions to this alarming and growing

issue. One proposed solution is tissue engineering, which could replace tissues and

organs with lab-generated counterparts. In this process, source cells can be

provoked to form functional tissues using biodegradable scaffold. Using this

technology, bio-artificial organs can now be grown using autologous cells and an

appropriate scaffold (Mungadi, 2012). However, the central issue with this

technology is that it is potentially cost prohibitive.

Another feasible future solution to the morally troubling trafficking issue is

xenotransplantation, which is the process of taking an organ of one species and

transplanting it into another animal species. Xenotransplantation could potentially

address the shortage of transplant organs, but this process is not without issues. Of

significant concern is the possibility of introducing and passing viruses from

animal species to humans. Ethical concerns are also raised as many would not

support animals being raised for the sole purpose of organ donation.

Three dimensional bioprinting is a future solution to the sale of organs on

the black market. This technology uses 3D printers to create human tissue and

possibly organs. The development of bioprinting would eliminate the need for drug

testing on humans and animals. Currently, research is being conducted on artificial

hearts, kidneys, and liver structures (Futurism, 2016). Another promising benefit is

the potential mass production of needed organs. Although this technology has

many advantages, it also has its drawbacks. One is that cell creation from 3D

bioprinting is conducted in an artificial environment that lacks natural biological

signaling and processes (Futurism, 2016). Another drawback is that vascular

structures have still not been integrated into the printing technique.

With successful further developments in biomedical engineering,

xenotransplantation and 3D bioprinting, many can be provided with needed life-

saving procedures or transplants. Technological engineering advancements to meet

the increasing demand will help to bring an end to the moral and ethical dilemma

that countries across the globe face due to the harvesting and sale of organs

through the black market.



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1, 2017, from

Mungadi, I. A. (2012, July). Bioengineering Tissue for Organ Repair,

Regeneration, and Renewal. In PubMed Central. Retrieved September 29,
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Perry, P. (2015). What You Need to Know About Human Organ Trafficking.
In Big Think. Retrieved October 1, 2017, from

Wagner, L. (2014, November 11). Organ Trafficking: More Than Just a Myth.
In S.J. Quinney College of Law. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from

Xenotransplantation: A Solution to the Donor Organ Shortage? (2017). In National

Kidney Foundation. Retrieved October 1, 2017, from https://