9/23/2007

Organs Anyone? The Case for Legalized Organ Sales

Recently, the concept of legalizing the purchase and sale of human organs has been a hot topic issue. I think this practice should be allowed to take place. People are rational thinkers and will naturally make decisions that result in more benefits than costs. Therefore, if people looking to purchase organs are able to pay the reservation prices of those that are looking to sell their organs, I say let the trading begin.

8 comments:

Dr. Tufte said...

I agree.

But ... my job is to help you think.

To that end, I would say that you haven't recognized what the appropriate question is.

We already do allow trade in organs. But, the particulars are so bizarre that they're difficult to see. What we need to ask is: what is the sequence of pairwise exchanges, and who gets what.

1) A person donates an organ and gets nothing (or perhaps some psychic income about how good they are before death). Some organization receives the organ; they pay no money for it.
2) That organization (and perhaps others) transfers the organ to a patient who needs it. They pay no money for it either.

What we've done is remove the payment of cash for organs, but not the payment of costs.

1) The original owner isn't compensated in any reasonable way, which decreases the number of organs donated.
2) The intermediaries are short organs, and know that the key is to pay more for them, but since they can't do that, they buy morally acceptable but less effective things instead: like billboards that encourage people to donate organs.
3) Recipients would probably be willing to pay money, but they are forbidden to do so, and instead pay with time, pain, and delaying treatments.

This sort of system is only moral and ethical if you stop using your mind at the point that someone mentions money.

Hailey said...

I think that monetary compensation for donating an organ will lead to an increase in the donation of organs, but only those that an individual can risk losing one without dying. There are still organs that are in demand that can only be used when the individual will be dying or is dead. Since the demand for these organs is less, the cost or payment for these organs will most certainly be higher. What will this lead to? Will someone who is strapped for money, intentionally let someone die so that they can sell the organs? An example may be pulling an individual off life support because you know you can sell the organs? I just think we need to look closer to the effects of what will happen when organs suddenly go on the market.

Dr. Tufte said...

Here's three additional thoughts.

1) Trading requires property rights. In order to have a functioning market with a positive price for organs, we will need to have clear property rights over the organs of the deceased. This isn't a terribly difficult thing to do; and it's absence suggests active suppression by people and groups benefit from the lack of a market.

2) Given property rights, the next step is to offer monetary compensation to potential donaters before they are actually dead. We don't talk much about that either.

3) Again, emphasizing the idea that there are already prices out there and that the problem is that they aren't expressed in monetary terms, organ sharing clubs are another way of getting around these issues. In these clubs, you must sign your organ donation card to become a member. You then have preferential access to the organs donated by other members of the club. The success of these organizations points to the hidden prices in the current system: the fact that more people are willing to sign with a guarantee of in-kind compensation suggests that the compensation with other methods is not high enough.

Logan said...

I am an organ donor and expect nothing in return. My position is that when I am dead, I don't need the organs so if they can be used for someone else, great, take them.

A bizarre thing that a good friend of mine did was donate a kidney out of the blue. He is an extremely intelligent man that makes $70,000/year as an actuary. Yet when he heard about a young man that needed a kidney, he went in and donated one! When I asked him why he did that, he said, "it seemed like the right thing to do."

Now I am not saying that we will fix the problem by having random people that are donors die (like myself) or that there will be enough people that just want to 'do the right thing,' however, for every one of those that do occur, that is one more person that receives a benefit that otherwise would not.

As for the others, well, I think everyone should be a donor. According to another post in this blog many people die in car accidents and crossing the street every day. If they were all organ donors, that should be more than enough available organs.

William said...

Dr. Tufte
I agree with you when you say, "This sort of system is only moral and ethical if you stop using your mind at the point that someone mentions money."

This system can only work when money is not involved. Once money enters the picture it is no longer ethical and there then becomes a perverse incentive. For example some parents may give away their child’s organs even though the child may not want to give away his/her organs. Also in rough areas there may be more killings due to the incentive of receiving money for organs. I think in hind sight this may be a good idea, but you must always take into account the whole picture and measure in the perverse incentives some people may have.

Trinity said...

Dr. Tufte is makes a good point about the ownership of the property discussed. Is this debate addressing the issue of live people selling organs they don't need too? Should people be able to sell a kidney right out of their own body? It's their property isn't it?

Dr. Tufte said...

I think William meant to disagree with me.

I don't like involving money any more than anyone else, I just think I'm observant enough to recognize that keeping money out of it doesn't take costs and incentives out too.

If money is such a problem we can compensate people in other ways. But, we insist on not compensating anyone at all. This is theft.

AMIT said...

No this thing will always be illegal.

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