ln this paper I examine the arguments for and against the buying and selling of human organs . I examine five opposing and two supporting arguments. The five opposing arguments are: (I) exploitation of the poor; (2) fostering crime; (3) creating a conflict between a person and his family; (4) contributing to the prevailing ethos of everything being for sale; (5) degrading human dignity. The two supporting arguments are: (1) self-ownership of human beings; (2) effective use of resources.
I argue that none of the opposing and supporting arguments are convincing. The buying and selling of human organs is not a problem with a clear and easy answer. It is instead a difficult ethical problem.
The use of the profit incentives to increase the supply of organs should not be mixed up with a literal commodification of human organs. There can be different ways of selling organs. Although human organs may have a special status quite different from other commodities, this may just mean that human organs should be sold very differently rather than that they should not be sold at all.
Organ selling can be restricted in the following ways: (1) buyer, e.g. only the government can be the buyer; (2) seller, e.g. only the "host" can be the seller (i.e. no resale is allowed); (3) price, e.g. one price system; (4) form, e.g. financial gain but no cash payment (such as reduction of insurance premium or compensation of estate); (5) content, e.g. only cadaveric organs can be sold; (6) purpose, e.g. only for transplantation.
Under such or similar restrictions, the advantages of allowing buying and selling organs can be promoted and the disadvantages can be avoided. Such arrangements deserve further investigation. If we take such restrictions into consideration, many objections against organ selling are not as convincing as they first appear to be.
My conclusions are as follows: (I) The arguments against the selling of organs as outlined in this paper can at most show that an unrestricted free market of organs is wrong, but they cannot show that the use of monetary incentives to increase the supply of organs is wrong. (2) The arguments for the selling of organs as outlined in this paper cannot show that people have a right to sell their organs. (3) It does not seem unreasonable to hold the view that the use of monetary incentives is acceptable but an unrestricted free market of human organs is not.