Feature

Why not let donors sell their organs?

The results of our misplaced idealism to see organ donation as a strictly &ldquo;altruistic&rdquo; activity are anything but humane, said Jeff Jacoby in <em>The Boston Globe.</em>

Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe

Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently traveled to Tennessee to undergo a liver transplant, sparking speculation that he had “somehow gamed the organ donation system to jump to the head of the waiting list,” said Jeff Jacoby. But the real question is why there’s such a long waiting list in the first place.

In our society, we insist on seeing organ donation as a strictly “altruistic” activity, and federal law prevents donors from getting any compensation. The results of this misplaced idealism are anything but humane. More than 100,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list, which grows longer each year; last year, 6,600 people died “while awaiting the kidney or liver or heart that could have kept them alive” but instead was “buried or cremated with bodies that will never need them again.”

Why is organ donation the one aspect of our health-care system that must be entirely free of commercial motivation? The surgeon who performed Jobs’ transplant, the hospital, and the pharmacy that supplied his meds “all were paid for the benefits they rendered.” Why shouldn’t the organ donor—or the donor’s family—also benefit from the same free market?

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