01 November 2006

Donate organ or gain

A tragedy:
In the United States, less than one half of potential organs donors became actual organ donors.
We are talking about dead people here of course. Less than half of living people are willing to sign-up to donate their organs when they no longer need them. Alex Tabbarok asks, well then why not pay?! With over 80,000 people on the waiting list and about 10% of these dying per year, it'd be nice if we could convince people to check the organ donor box when they go to the DMV. One obstacle is the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 which states
"It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation."
Ostensibly, this is to reduce the traffic in live human organs. To a lesser degree it aims to keep the rich from cornering the organ market. However, there are ways to avoid these undesirable outcomes. First, only allow payment for organs from dead people, with the funds going to the family, the estate, or some charity of the donor's choosing. Second, don't sell organs on the free market. Instead, use the current national registry system but allow the donors to be paid for their contribution!

In the absence of legal payment options, a group called the LifeSharers has banded together, promising to donate their organs upon death to other members of the group before opening up to the national registry. At first I didn't know what to think about LifeSharers. But then I read their FAQs and found this quote on their website...

...Dr. Friedman has spoken. Think about it, if you could join a club that gave you first dibs on organs, wouldn't you join. You never incur a cost to join because you fulfill you obligation upon death. No, I haven't joined yet, but I'm seriously considering it.


thricesplice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thricesplice said...

It should be noted that not all people that are not organ donors are awful. Some people value the integrity of the dead; to these people, such a thing is as valuable as belief in Jesus Christ. Something to think about.

My personal opinion though... I should probably become an organ donor, just haven't really thought about it.

And also, what about people who don't understand organ donation, or miss it when they are at the DMV and don't think about it . Are they less deserving of organs? Punish the ignorant?
Are the Lifesharers actually greedy because they are saving from themselves while keeping from the ignorant? Sure, they are keeping organs away from the few who don't have good reasons for being organ donors, but morality is a poorly defined line.

Matt said...

I have to disagree with the description of morality as a line.

Morality is a pin-point of perfection in a 3-demensional space where no one is completely correct.

Jeff Shepley said...


Do these people that don't donate due to integrity of the dead have any problem accepting organs from donors?

LifeSharers is not keeping organs from people. Instead it gives people an additional incentive to donate, thereby increasing the supply of organs. If everybody was a Lifesharer the system would work the same as it does today, except there would be a less severe shortage in organs. Lifesharers has a website and is trying to spread the word. They benefit from additional membership!

Jeff Shepley said...


I don't agree with either description of morality. If morality was a pinpoint not only would no one be completely correct, everybody would be entirely wrong.

In fact I don't know if morality can be constrained to an object, line, point, or otherwise that we can visualize. To me, morality is a philosophical construct that is created in the mind and is defined as the set of actions that an agent defines as "good."

Dave Undis said...

jeff shepley said "I haven't joined yet, but I'm seriously considering it."

Jeff: did you ever decide whether to join LifeSharers? If you have any questions, please let me know.

Dave Undis