Bioethics News

Organs for the rich and cute: Should patients campaign for their own donors?

By Ada Roberts

This week the Canadian Society of Transplantation released a report officially sanctioning the practice of publicly campaigning for organ donors, a practice that made headlines last year when two Canadian parents were desperately searching for functional kidneys for their recently adopted twins. The practice, says the report, is “ethically and legally acceptable” because it does not hurt anyone and the potential concerns of such a practice are outweighed by its benefits – namely, raising awareness for “organ donorship in general”, says Dr. Atul Hamar, the Transplantation Society’s president.

Public campaigns for organ donations have recently started utilizing social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as tools to make their pleas truly public. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, for instance, received a new liver last year following an online post about his need for a donor. These direct donations, the ones that follow from public solicitation, are not immune to criticism. Critics claim the practice of publicly  is unethical and problematic because, ultimately, it is unfair. Some may not have the resources or savvy to launch a social media campaign for their cause, and others, that is, most people, don’t own sports teams.

Daniel Buchman, a bioethicist at the University Health Network in Toronto, does not see the practice as inherently problematic. Rather, because inequities are already built into society, such as those that arise when someone in need of a donor has a larger family or network from which to search for a donor than someone with a comparatively smaller family, the practice itself is not unethical.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.