Monday, March 13, 2006

REACT: Organs for Sale

This is not about the kind you play on (and don’t go THERE, either). We are talking human internal organs of the type we take from the unfortunate deceased and install in needy human beings. Not much different than when we go to the auto salvage yard for a whachamacallit from a totaled car to replace the defective whachamacallit in our own car. The “vehicle” is quite different but the concept is the same.

Recently, there was yet another story of how eBay rejects individuals who want to sell their body parts online. Of course, the idea of a market in human body parts is shocking ... awful … horrifying … repugnant … and otherwise distasteful to our human sensibilities. It is also illegal. We are not about to let such practice compromise the sanctity of our human bodies, and violate some ancient medical oath.

Then again, why not? I once shared the knee jerk disgust at the idea. Then my logical brain kicked in. What’s the big wuss??

Taking a “spare” human organ from a healthy person is not something new. In fact, we often read heart rendering (no pun intended) stories about people who have donated a kidney or liver to a loved one heading to Gods’ embrace without the healthy organ. We call those donors heroes. But let a person offer that same non-critical part of their own body for much needed money, and we go nuts.

A kidney is a lot more “my” body than a fetus, since there are three claims to life for a fetus – mom, dad and self. Clearly, the Kidney is mine. I own it. No controversy on that point. So, if I want to sell it, why should society care? Donate or sell, the organ is still a gift of life. We are told over and over of the many who die waiting for a new organ.

I am not sure of the moral soundness of a society that promotes the destruction of a human fetal life at the willy nilly will of a woman, and finds the sale of an extraneous body part to save a life so darn horrific.

If a doctor's oath to “do no harm” was a real consideration, the donated organs would be no less a problem.

For eons, we have allowed people to sell their blood, even for enough money to produce a good drunken binge. We beg them to come into the local blood dealer out of the highest of humanitarian modtives. But suggest selling a kidney and we lose the rational line of thought.

Some argue that the wealthy would be able to buy up the organs, and the poor would be left to those that come on the market by conventional means – tragic death. In actuality, the poor would benefit by getting all the wealthy folks out of line ahead of them. Those with less income are more likely to get the organ they need. And keep in mind, those now getting them are above average in income. Like in all things, we just have to get over the fact that the wealthy enjoy the benefits of wealth – and communist-like notions of redistribution are doomed to failure.

Further more, that sale of organs would produce a much larger number. More lives saved – rich and poor. Apart from the humanitarian good, such practice would reduce the cost of organs (that old free-market supply and demand stuff).

It would also reduce the incentive for the black market in organs. “Stealing” organs from healthy people, and occasionally killing them in the process, is much more common that we would like to admit. Organ commerce has a seedy underside not unlike the days of prohibition. Just witness the scandal over purloined body parts in New England. Granted, a lot of those parts are not available from the living, but a lot are.

Outside of some primitive emotional taboo-like irrationality, what is so wrong with letting people sell an organ or two in a non-life threatening manner. I am not proposing direct sales over the counter. The system of organ transfer would have to be within the rules and regulations. Certainly, we would have to establish some legal guidelines, but that is a no brainer for legislators. They have done far worse with little effort and minimal guilt.

If you had a young child … a spouse … a mother … dying for lack of an organ, would you find it repugnant to put out some cash to save them?

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