Organ donation has resulted from the advances in medical techniques that have made it a very viable choice. When the technology did not exist, it was not an issue. Today, an average of 74 people per day receive a life saving organ transplant, but at the same time, an average of 19 people die each day waiting for a transplant that never comes. The entire issue has raised serious ethical concerns and the debate over them rages unabated. As further advances are made in such areas as cloning, the ethical debate should grow more intense.
The ethical questions are complicated by an outgoing debate over the definitions of certain key terms such as life, death, human, and body. One example is the definition of the idea of brain dead. People have been confused over the issue because of the highly public cases of people recovering from comas even after many years. The distinction between the idea of brain dead and comatose becomes a matter that must be clearly defined. A family that is asked to donate body to science of a brain dead relative must be confident that there is no hope of recovering.
Other ethical issues of organ donation are considered bioethical. One important one is the idea of cloning. The technology that would allow the cloning of genetically matched clones for the purpose of body harvesting exists already. A recent science fiction movie addressed this exact issue. It told of human beings cloned and held in captivity until their organs were needed at which time they were killed and their organs harvested. This type of body donation is what many fear if cloning for the purpose of organ donation is ever allowed.
Another issue often raised has more to do with the economic exploitation of the donors. It is a common perception that the donors are poor and the ones receiving the organs are rich. This raises fear of an organ black market. In some places, such as the Indian subcontinent and Africa this has already become a concern. Another issue is known as xenotransplantation which involves the harvesting of certain compatible animal organs for use in humans. A whole new plethora of ethical issues surround this idea. Even animal rights groups have joined in this debate. There is no question that body donation and organ donation will remain a hot topic for many years to come.