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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Should you be allowed to sell your kidneys?

Ilya Somin tackles a key moral objection to the idea at the Volokh Conspiracy, the argument that organ donations markets exploit the poor.

There is a fundamental objection to placing monetary value on human body parts. And yet prohibiting compensation for organ donation unquestionably means far more people dead for lack of organs than if such voluntary exchanges were allowed.

Under a strict utilitarian argument, allowing people to sell themselves a piece at a time would make make us better off.

Under a libertarian argument, people should be allowed to weigh the risks and rewards of organ donation on their own, even if it could be harmful to the donors' health. Somin shows that for kidney donations, those risks are minimal. For post-mortem donation, they are non-existent.

Markets solve problems. They distribute scarce resources more efficiently. But they can't make moral decisions for us. We need other means to determine what is permissible and what is prohibited. Only then can markets help us distribute our limited resources within the boundaries we create.

1 comment:

  1. The argument always seems to be that the poor (or any individual) can't make the right decisions for themselves. But what is always left out of these discussions is the fact that organ procurement organizations in the United States have annual revenues of $4 Billion. Total revenue for the entire transplant industry, including the payments to the OPO's is $20 Billion. A whole body donation to an OPO or Tissue Bank is estimated to be worth $1 to $2 million to these organizations.

    So it is a farce to say money is not a motivator for players in the system. What harm could come from a system that llows families to have the last and final medical expenses of their love one paid in exchange for donoation of their organs?

    Live kidney donations really aren't needed. Over 20,000 perfectly good organs are buried or cremated each year. So selling organs by live people is a clever misdirection by the organ harvesting industry.

    With the adoption of the 2006 Uniform anatomical Gift Act by 37 states and the District of Columbia, harvesting organs couldn't be easier. Under that law, it is assumed your are a donor unless they can find evidence to the contrary. The act allows for individuals to designate their preference not to be a donor, yet no donor registry run by the OPO industry will take a "no" selection.

    Those who scream the loudest about keeping the system pure and free from commercial free market influences are earning the biggest incomes. If we were talking about copper and Bolivia, the issues at stake would be crystal clear. Anytime the basic raw materials are free, abuses are going to happen.

    Check out the information at www.donottransplant.com, an organ donor registry that allows any American to say "no" and allows for the flexibiity of changing their designation should just compensation become law in the future.