Organ transplants can be crucial when it comes to saving a person’s life. An organ donation can often mean the start of a new beginning for patients suffering from the likes of heart disease, kidney failure and even some forms of cancer.

However, there is some debate over the fairness of organ donation and whether or not people who suffer from conditions that are considered to be due to lifestyle choices, such as smoking or alcohol abuse, should be given organ transplants.

NHS resources are already under a lot of pressure, and with so many patients currently waiting for organ transplants, should organ transplants always be given to the next person on the list, even if their illness could be considered self-inflicted? We look at the arguments for and against.

Arguments against treating the next person on the list

As the NHS healthcare system is currently very strained, it could lead to the argument that only those who are considered to be ‘deserving’ should ultimately be granted a transplant. There is also the issue of whether, if an alcoholic, for example, were granted a transplant, they would be able to upkeep the on-going lifestyle changes required so as not to damage the new organ they have been given.

Arguments for treating the next person on the list

On the other side of the argument, those in favour of treating the next person on the list would state that receiving an organ transplant for a potentially life-threatening condition is a basic human right. As well as this, the NHS is an equal healthcare system and so medical professionals within it have a duty of care to all their patients.

There is also the issue of deciding where to draw the line – how do you pick and choose which patients should be refused organ transplants? If they are a recovering alcoholic, or someone who quit smoking 10 years ago, should they still be refused? Ultimately, lifestyle choices do have an effect on everyone’s health, so would refusing treatment or being pushed further down the transplant waiting list lead to those who have a bad diet or do not exercise being refused treatment too?