Can a Black Market Ever Be Ethical?

     While I agree with Bianca in that I would also rather buy generic pharmaceutical products as opposed to drugs a college student cooked in his basement, I think that it is important to consider why there is a black market for drugs and other medical services in the first place.  Perhaps it is easier to consider organs on the black market as opposed to pharmaceuticals.  I, for one, believe that under the current regulations, a black market for organs is unavoidable and even necessary.  To quote a New York Times article, “More than 3,300 Americans died last year awaiting kidney transplants”.  That is 3,300 Americans, not 3,300 people in the world and not 3,300 people waiting for other organs (hearts, lungs, what have you).  Many of those people have been on multiple transplant lists, but have still been unable to get an organ.  If we are to look past the moral aspects of this situation, I believe that it is necessary to have a window of opportunity such as the black market if all other efforts have failed.

An article titled “Black Market Medicine: An Ethical Alternative to State Control,” states:

“Defying the law can sometimes be the only course left for the doctor faced with legislation contrary to his ethics. In so doing he is guilty of no crime other than that of non-cooperation with a morally empty institution”.

While this may be too reverent of an outlook, it does force us to think about why so many people turn to the black market for health care?  Is it the fact that the black market will exist regardless of how the system is organized, or is it the fact that, when faced with the choice of life or death, most people will go to immeasurable lengths to choose “life”?  Finally, can we ever fully shut down the black market?

This is another interesting article on surgeons’ take on the selling of human organs:

1 comment
  1. jaredb said:

    The NY Times ran an interesting story about kidney transplants. The story highlights something called “paired exchange.” In this exchange 30 donors were paired with 30 recipients. The interesting thing is that if a patient needs a kidney, and they have a potential donor, the paired exchange allows the transplant, but not necessarily from their donor. I read this as a positive approach to the obstacle of antigen matching in organ transplants, your willing donor does not need to be a match for you, they just need to be willing to give up the organ, the pairing makes the appropriate matches. I see this as a novel approach, and also a potential way of lowering the necessity of black market organs.

    60 Lives, 30 Kidneys, All Linked By KEVIN SACK
    Published: February 18, 2012
    A record chain of kidney transplants resulted from a mix of medical need, pay-it-forward selflessness and lockstep coordination among 17 hospitals over four months.

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