Diseased Pancreas on Sale Over Internet Raises Ethical Concerns

by Medindia Content Team on  February 13, 2008 at 1:14 PM General Health News
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Diseased Pancreas on Sale Over Internet Raises Ethical Concerns
Mario Meunier of Quebec in Canada has something unusual to offer, his diseased pancreas.

Customers' reception has not exactly been exciting. The popular auction site eBay removed the posting quickly, but he has come back through another channel. Many have raised ethical concerns.

Meunier says he is only hoping to raise awareness about a glucose deficiency known as nesidioblastosis, and of course cash in on his rare pancreatic problem at the same time.

Meunier was originally seeking $1.5 million through the online auction house eBay.

The website removed the posting earlier this month, within days of it going online.

"We have a human remains and body parts policy that is strictly enforced," said eBay spokeswoman Erin Sufrin.

The Quebec man promptly slashed his price to $500,000 and reposted his offer with BidOfferBuy.com, an online company that sells through eBay.

By Monday, however, his proposal once again appeared on eBay and at the relative bargain of $75,000.

What exactly Meunier is offering for the $75,000 is unclear, though he does propose to serve as a research consultant for that price.

An earlier version of the ad on the BidOfferBuy site suggests he is offering much more than just his expertise.

"I need serious help... I want to do something to cure it [nesidioblastosis] or stop it," the posting reads. "As a matter of fact, I'm so decided [sic] to help that I would be ready to place my pancreas at the disposal of serious researchers."

According to a separate website maintained by Meunier, he developed nesidioblastosis after a gastric bypass for obesity in 2000.

Until recently medical researchers considered nesidioblastosis, or persistent hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia of infancy (PHHI), rare among adults. Severe forms of the disease can cause brain damage or even death.

Meunier claims his onset was caused by the gastric bypass and wants to open the door to more research to explore the link.

"This nesidioblastosis has not only ravaged my plans for a career, forcing me to stop my [nurse's] training, but now completely prevents me from working," his website reads.

But Meunier's pleas for a better understanding of his condition are unlikely to arouse much compassion among medical ethicists, troubled as they are by the hefty price tag he's attached to his pancreas.

"I don't think there is a hospital that would risk doing that kind of operation and expose themselves to legal risks." said Pierre Deschamps, a law professor at McGill University specializing in biomedical ethics.

"There are certain taboos that still exist in society and one of them is to sell your organs to another person, because the potential for abuse exists," added Deschamps, who also serves on the federal government's advisory panel for research ethics.

"We don't to head towards a society where you can offer your organs to the highest bidder."

Meunier, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, was reportedly prompted to market his pancreas after visiting a Montreal hospital ahead of a pancreatectomy.

He balked when informed he couldn't take possession of the organ following the surgery.

"They didn't give me a choice," he told the Montreal newspaper La Presse. "It was either I sign or they refuse to operate."

There have been a select few cases in Quebec where patients claimed ownership of body parts after a surgery, but did so for artistic reasons. Those incidents raised a somewhat disturbing precedent for Deschamps.

"That someone would want to take off with pancreas is rather unusual and I think we need to exercise prudence," he said.

"Taken to the extreme, somebody could have their leg amputated and tell the doctor `I like my leg so much I'm going to take it home with me and put in the refrigerator."

Source: Medindia

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