Nephrarious goings on. Kidney sales and moral arguments

J Med Philos. 1996 Aug;21(4):375-416. doi: 10.1093/jmp/21.4.375.


From all points of the political compass, from widely different groups, have come indignant outcries against the trade in human organs from live vendors. Opponents contend that such practices constitute a morally outrageous and gross exploitation of the poor, inherently coercive and obviously intolerable in any civilized society. This article examines the arguments typically offered in defense of these claims, and finds serious problems with all of them. The prohibition of organ sales is derived not from the principles and argument usually invoked in support of prohibition, but rather, from strong feelings of repugnance which exert an invisible but powerful influence on the debate, distorting the arguments [and working] to the detriment of the [very] people most in need of protection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / standards*
  • Contracts
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Government Regulation
  • Human Body
  • Human Rights*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Paternalism*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / economics*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / standards