Skip to comments.Organs for sale?
Posted on 01/04/2002 11:19:01 AM PST by Magician
Both buyers and sellers would prosper if willing donors were allowed to sell their kidneys, livers and other body parts
AT ITS winter meeting in San Francisco, the American Medical Association voted by a narrow margin to table a proposal to study the effect of money on donations of human organs. That's too bad, because allowing the sale of organs would increase the number of them available, and could save thousands of lives a year. In the year 2000, more than 76,000 people in the United States were on a waiting list for a kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, intestine or lung transplant, or for a transplant of some combination of these organs, according to www.ustransplant.org.
The number of people who actually get transplants in a year is about one third of the number waiting for them. In 2000, less than 23,000 of the people on the list got the organs they were waiting for. And nearly 6,000 people died while awaiting organ transplants.
Even those who don't die have hard lives compared to what they could have with transplanted organs. And here's the bitter irony: According to the United Network of Organ Sharing, only one third of potentially valuable organs from people who die are donated. The rest are buried with the dead. If somehow, we could persuade people before they die, or their loved ones immediately after they are dead, to give up their organs, we could eliminate the shortage. But how can we do that?
Many doctors have recognized that the answer is to give potential organ providers the same incentive we give to doctors, nurses and virtually everyone else in the medical system: Allow them to charge.
No one would be surprised at the lack of doctors if we insisted that doctors perform their services for free. Similarly, considering that the federal government has banned the sale of body parts, we shouldn't be surprised at the shortage of organs.
The supply of organs has depended on people's benevolence, and benevolence hasn't been enough. If people don't see a gain for themselves in giving up body parts, they often don't. But if they can sell their organs, they suddenly have a strong reason for making sure that they have filled out all the right forms before dying. Being able to sell their body parts is like being given a substantial life insurance policy for free.
You might think that's a cynical view of mankind. But insisting on being paid before giving up body parts is no more cynical than insisting on being paid for that other major item your body produces, namely, your labor.
What are the objections of those who would fine or jail people who want to sell or buy organs? Phyllis Weber, executive director of the California Transplant Donor Network, says that most donor families she talks to are offended at the idea that financial incentives would make a difference. But they're the wrong ones to ask. Their generous behavior shows they're not the ones whom money would motivate. For many others, a financial incentive might well matter. One of the biggest shortages is of kidneys. Interestingly, we don't really need that spare kidney while we're alive.
Some opponents of organ sales fear, quite plausibly, that allowing the sale of organs would give poor people an incentive to sell their spare kidney. But notice what this means: Preventing poor people from selling a kidney makes them worse off. If organ sales were legal, some poor people could quickly come up with a down payment on a house. Even some middle class people might spring for the cash. In all cases, both buyer and seller would gain.
Dr. Michelle Petersen, one of the AMA convention attendees who opposed organ sales said, "I have a problem with treating the body and the human as property."
No she doesn't, unless she opposes allowing people to donate their organs. She just has a problem with people being able to sell their property. Don't blame the AMA. Blame the federal government, and in particular, Al Gore who, as a congressman in 1984, sponsored the bill to make organ sales a crime.
And go beyond blame. The AMA will vote in June on whether to study a free market in organs. Let's encourage the good doctors not only to study the issue but also to push Congress to end the ban on body part sales. The lives of thousands of people are at stake.
And if someone sells their kidney and the only one left goes bad what then? Are they going to pay for the new kidney they'd need? No, their insurance company (you and I) would.
Higher premiums so that someone can sell an organ to put a down payment on a house? No thanks.
Why a loved one?
My farther was appalled when heart transpalantation was first done. As an experienced crimianl defense attorney, he was certain that people like the Mafia would simply knock off someone if the Capo di tutti Capo needed a new heart.
Of course our worst fears could be realized and the hospitals could open drive through windows where people could just drop off random organs and get cash for them on the spot.
Money for organs is a bad, bad idea.
Another thought was that if they're going to allow people to sell their organs then they'll have to allow people to rent their bodies as well ala brothels. That would definately be hypocritical, you can sell your organs but not the sexual one's.
Selling organs for $$$ is a great idea, and until implemented there will continue to be an "organ shortage" (no surprise there).
My body belongs to me, and I should be able to do with it as I please. If that means donating a kidney for $$$$, that's my choice.
If perfectly healthy people start selling organs there are medical implications not the least of which are infection and recovery.
As a result MY insurance would go up. You can't possibly dillute the costs associated with these types of things and nobody knows what would happen down the road. Sure you make $5,000 now but what if complications down the road result in expenses that the donor can't afford? Answer, it hits me in the pocket book not you.
As a result MY insurance would go up.
Not really....the costs associated with the obtaining of the organ, including recovery and treatment of complications like infection would be covered, one would hope, by the purchaser.
In fact, insurance companies could, and likely would, exclude coverage for donation related costs. Similarly, to answer an earlier concern, if the donor later needed, say, a kidney to replaced a failed remaining one, then those costs could also be excluded.
Of course, the government could mandate that companies include coverage, as the government already does for various conditions and treatments, but then that's a problem with government, not with the concept of me owning my body and using it as I wish.