Organ Trafficking − A Deadly Trade

One major problem that the world is facing nowadays is the lack of organs available for transplant. Scheper-Hughes, an advisor to the World Health Organisation and the co-founder of Organs Watch, calls the demand for human body parts “insatiable”. On average, an individual will wait for three and a half years for an organ to become available for transplant and because the supply does not meet the demand they have no choice but to rely on illegal means of obtaining that organ.

The WHO estimates that five to ten percent of all organ transplants performed worldwide are illegal. Some of the US’s topmost medical facilities have been caught with illegally trafficked organs. There are cases where the so-called patient is treated for a sickness they do not have and the traffickers make off with the organ or a person decides to sell their kidney or a section of the liver but gets cheated ending up with a much lower amount than what they were promised beforehand.

Traffickers focus on the most vulnerable members of society. It is easier to both persuade these people to part with their organs and accept underpay or even steal from them. These poorer, more vulnerable victims will not have the means or government assistance to be sure that any transaction negotiated is carried out fairly, as it is illegal.

Moreover, this is a concern not only for the donors but also for the organ recipients. Given the desperate desire of patients to undergo organ transplantation, their risk of being exploited should not be underestimated. Several studies report a high frequency of medical complications in these illegal abroad transplantations, including the transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C viruses.

There are also psychological factors involved. Paid kidney donation is associated with depression, regret and discrimination and paid kidney donors do not receive follow-up care.

Questions to keep in mind:

  • Should organ trade be legalized in order to combat illegal trafficking and organ shortage?
  • Is buying organs from the black market a viable and ethical solution, something reasonable to do in a life or death situation?
  • What impact could the legalisation of organ trade have on the poor? Would donations appear without forethought?
  • Should the Iranian model be followed?
  • What else could motivate people to donate?

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Antibiotics and Vaccines – A Duo in Decline?

Vaccines have proven time and again their efficiency and major role in saving lives all around the globe. However, what happens when their effect on the recipient ceases?

Numerous studies show that bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotics used against them, especially in developing countries. This is due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics – which mainly consists in the prescription of the wrong antibiotic for a specific type of bacterium, but not only – as well as the poor quality, for example, altered or counterfeit medicine, or even expired medicines. People have started to use antibiotics for viral infections such as the common cold, sore throat, bronchitis and by doing so, they unknowingly cause antibiotic resistance. The mechanism of acquiring medicine- resistance in bacteria has a genetic basis, for which the antibiotic acts as a means of propagation, and is mainly hereditary, thus resulting in continuous mutations against numerous inhibitors. For example, studies that were performed in 2010 on isolated E-coli from both India and the UK found that the organism became greatly resistant to all but two types of antibiotics. As of right now, the focus centres on preventing the resistance genes from spreading, as well as improving the medication.

Infections that can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics result in much more expensive medicines and longer treatment. The health care costs, as well as the economic burden on families and societies, are increasing and hospitals are becoming overcrowded due to prolonged hospital stays. In addition, organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgery such as caesarean section are becoming much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections.

Furthermore, the controversy on vaccines cannot be limited to social issues. While highly necessary, vaccines might have the potential to favour the development of viruses, in a similar way to that of bacteria, due to the antigenic drift that occurs through an accumulation of mutations in the virus, which provide a new, stronger version. Most of the numerous studies that were carried out had the influenza virus, both human and animal, as a basis and resulted in the need for close monitoring of the patient, as well as the improvement of the vaccine formulation. As vaccines play the most important role in the immunisation against viral infections, their availability and efficiency are of paramount importance. Otherwise, the world might face frightening pandemics.

Questions to keep in mind:

  • What is the social aspect of the issue? What about the economic one?
  • Is it possible to develop more efficient inhibitors to bacteria and viruses, as compared to vaccines and antibiotics?
  • Is research enough to solve the problem? What else can be done?
  • Is antibiotic treatment necessary for illnesses that are not very serious?

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