Live Donation - Ethical Issues

Each type of living donation involves asking ethical questions. This is because the treatment affects not only the people in need of transplants but also the healthy individuals who volunteer to donate. Living donors have operations that do not benefit them and may even cause them harm.

Before living donation can go ahead, the person who wishes to donate must understand that the donation may affect their physical health and their mental wellbeing. The chances of there being problems after donation will depend on the type of donation. For example, the chances of problems after bone marrow donation are quite small.

Kidney or liver donation involves a more serious operation so it is more likely that there could be problems either during or following the surgery.

There are important ethical standards that must be met before living donation can go ahead: donors must understand and accept the risk to themselves; there must be a very low chance of harm to the donor’s physical or mental health, immediately or in the future; and there must be a very high chance that the transplant will be successful.

The person offering to be a live organ donor must be:

■ Psychologically stable

■ Freely willing to donate

■ Free from any coercion

■ Medically and psycho-socially suitable

■ Fully informed of the risks and benefits

■ Fully informed of the effectiveness of current treatment options available to the recipient.

Overall, the wellbeing of the donor must be considered above the health of the person who needs the transplant.

All living donation must be completely altruistic. This means the decision to donate must be a selfless act, made purely through the desire to improve the quality of life of a fellow human being with no expectation of reward or reimbursement.

In Australia it is illegal to provide an organ in exchange for money. Recipients are not allowed to reimburse live donors for loss of wages or costs incurred. Such reimbursement could be interpreted as an incentive for donation.

 Human Organ and Tissue Trade in Australia

Trade in human organs and tissue is illegal in Australia and also ethically unacceptable. Anyone involved in such activity in Australia faces serious criminal charges.

The illegal buying of organs overseas raises the risks of recipients contracting blood born diseases, complications, or even death and is something the Organ Donation & Transplant Foundation does not support.