Friday, September 23, 2005

A Free Market in Transplant Organs?

Another Washington Post article explores a growing internet phenomenon: the solicitation of living donors of organs. As ever, the anti-freedom elitists among us wring their hands and cry foul:

"Our organ allocation system is imperfect, but there is a lot of effort and a lot of thought to make it as fair as possible. Once you go down this road and allow people to jump ahead in the queue through a popularity contest through the Web, you can be assured justice goes out the window," David Magnus, a Stanford University bioethicist, said.

Aside from potentially giving the more affluent, educated or computer-literate an edge, allowing donors to designate their recipient can lead to discrimination, Magnus and others say.

"You could easily see a situation where you have a donor who says, 'I'm only going to donate to a white person,' or 'I'm only going to give to someone with my religion,' " said Douglas W. Hanto of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who represents the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.

I suspect that the number of people who are going to be so bigoted is minuscule. However, even if it were a large number, so what? We are talking about people who likely wouldn't donate anything otherwise. Having the philosopher-kings look over every transaction before it happens to determine fairness and equity is obviously putting an enormous damper on the availability of organs.

Also, what is ethically wrong with selling a part of one's body for another to use? (I am not advocating this; indeed, I used to give blood to the Red Cross regularly till their paranoia about my European travels and Mad Cow Disease put a halt to that.) If it makes more organs available for people who need them, I don't see why the rest of society has any right to stop the transaction.

(A Buddhist aside: We are not our bodies, we are not not our bodies, we are not both our bodies and not our bodies, and we are not neither our bodies nor not our bodies. Apologies to Nagarjuna.)



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