A few weeks ago panelists at the American Enterprise Institute urged that changes be made in the current organ donation system. Last week, the President’s Council on Bioethicsbegan discussions on this same topic. At the heart of these conversations is the very real and urgent critical shortage ofavailable organs for transplant patients. People are dying while theywait for someone to give them the gift of life. And we need to earnestly look at ways to increase organ donation and organ sharing between those in need and those with healthy organs. But I take hugeissue with the solutions the panelists at AEI recommend.
The solutions proposed are nothing new. Money, they say, is the solution to solving the organ shortage. Cash incentives such as tax credits and deductions, college scholarships for the children of the donor, guaranteed health insurance, or just plain old cash are the answer.
Newt Gingrich, one of the panelists, said, “Well meaning people have created a well-meaning monopoly.” Those well meaning people to whom Mr.Gingrich refers are those at the National Kidney Foundation and the United Network for Organ Sharing(UNOS). Charles Fruit, chairman of the National Kidney Foundation believes that paying people or their families for their organs will beoffensive to those who have already donated organs. UNOS supportslegislation which encourages donation as well as honors those who have donated. Note the emphasis has been and needs to be on the word, donation. Donation means a gift, without compensation. No strings attached.
Sally Satel,a physician and resident scholar with AEI and herself a recipient of anorgan transplant, said on the panel that she would have “gladly paidfor a kidney” if the law allowed it. She considered being a transplanttourist, traveling to another country in search of a kidney forpurchase but fortunately for her, a friend donated a kidney to her.
Finally, Benjamin Hippen, a nephrologist who specializes in renal transplantation praised the markets as the mechanism to solve the shortage, stating, “the genius of markets is they allow like-mindedpeople to cooperate with each other.” By like-minded, does Dr. Hippenmean, I have something you want so let’s make a deal?
But what about those who are waiting on the list and don’t have the financial means to cooperatewith those like-minded people? Don’t worry because the panel of expertsand scholars assure us that “allowing financial incentives–perhapswith certain regulations in place–would increase the number of organsavailable AND (emphasis mine) reduce waiting times.” The waiting linesare for those who can’t afford to buy their organ and need to depend onthe benevolence of others. Let me get this straight. You can eithergive your kidney to a poor person or you can sell it to the highestbidder. And they think that is a winning combination to increase the available organs and reduce waiting time? If you believe that, I have abridge I’d like to sell you.
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