So, your bills got you down, maybe you want to take that much needed vacation or are just plain strapped for cash? Why not consider selling one of your vital organs to somebody in need of a transplant. After all, we live in a free market economy and not to mention that what you do with your own body is your business. Alas, here in the States it is illegal for you to do so. But should it be? (Wait! I’m not endorsing the practice, please read the entire w/u - thanks)

Economic Incentives

Pros – Hard Line Response

Hey – there’s not enough organs to go around in the first place. Over 60,000 people are just waiting to get their hands on one of my precious body parts. As a matter of fact, about 12 people a day will die if they don’t get one. I stand to make a profit and they get to live. Where’s the harm in that?

Further, there are estimates that somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 people who die each year are suitable for organ donation. Ya know what, only ‘bout half of them donate. If there was some kinda “financial incentive” involved, those numbers might increase drastically and more lives could be saved..

Pros – Middle of the Road Response

Okay, maybe an absolute free market for organs is a little over the top. Might there might be some other “incentives” that would provide the impetus for me to donate an organ? Well, here’s a couple of ideas.

You could “trade” your organ. That’s right, lets suppose you were in need of a kidney transplant. You could offer your mismatched kidney in exchange for the one you need. This would increase the odds of somebody making use of said kidney. Sorta like a kidney barter system.

Or, how about giving the potential donor something that credit card companies have been using for years. Sorta like a “preferred” status. That’s right, suppose I offer up my vital organs and should happen to need a transplant myself? Shouldn’t I go to the top of the list since I already volunteered my services?

Pros - Some Other Considerations

Hey, everybody else involved seems to make a profit off the organ transplant surgery. That includes the hospital, the transplant surgeon, those involved in follow up care. Why should the donor be left out of the picture?

Yeah, I’ve heard the argument that only the rich will be able to afford organs but you know what? I’ve heard that the price of the organ is already factored into the price of the operation. That means the agencies and doctors receive the money instead of the donor. Don’t those people have enough money already?

And while we’re on that subject, the hell with altruism. Why should rich people die even though they can afford the costs associated with the selling of my organs. At least this way, somebody gets to go on living.

What about insurance? Surely Medicare, Medicaid, and any private insurance carriers will no longer cover transplant operations if the price will go up. Wanna bet, studies have been done that indicate the price of the operation will not vary to such a degree that those institutions will stop coverage. Besides, in the case of a kidney transplant, the operation would cost less than having to go through a lifetime of dialysis.

Last but not least, its my freakin’ body. The last I heard was that it was legal for me to do all sorts of unhealthy things to my self such as smoking and drinking without having to be worried about the government stepping in and telling me how to regulate myself.

Now, lets look at the other side of the fence

Economic Incentives

Cons – Hard Line Response

Hey – ya know what? It is an altruistic system. Human organs should not be viewed as commodities and any contamination of these altruistic ideals might actually decrease the supply of available organs.

Besides, most people that are willing to donate their organs are not profit driven. In fact, if we improve the current system to educate more people about the benefits of organ donation, the supply would increase drastically.

Cons – Middle of the Road Response

Yes, we all agree that there is a shortage of available organs but there are steps that can be taken in order to alleviate the situation before resorting to the profiteering method.

First of all, we need to get more of the medical community involved in informing their patients about the benefits of organ donation.

We also need to make the argument to the general public that if they were in need of an organ transplant, wouldn’t they want to receive the organs based on a system that was fair and equitable and not biased towards the rich?

Could we also introduce a system of implied or presumed consent? That is, if your wishes have not been clearly stated before your death, can we can presume that you choose to be an organ donor rather than the policy that is in place today where it is presumed you are not?

Should we be able to treat the poor as commodities? Surely the rich will not pony up to sell their organs, after all, they could afford to buy them. The poor and uneducated could fall victim to “organ brokers” and corrupt agencies due to their social status. It didn’t work in India where the practice of selling one’s organs was legal.

Cons – Some Other Considerations

The argument that the rich will be the only ones able to afford organ transplants rings true. Do you really want a system based on supply and demand where organs would be doled out to the highest bidder?

Not enough studies have been conducted on live donors to indicate that their quality of life has been effected in a negative manner. Since the practice of organ selling would, on the face of it, appeal more to the poor, who would cover the costs of any after care needed after they have donated their organs? That my friends, would be me and you in the form of higher insurance premiums and Medicare/Medicaid costs..

Last but not least, many people do commit acts based on altruism. It would discourage these people from donating their organs and in fact would have a negative impact on the pool of organs that is currently available.

There you have it folks. Hopefully I’ve presented both sides of this issue with some degree of equality and fairness. I myself don’t know where I stand but am leaning towards discouraging the practice of organ selling solely for altruistic reasons.

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