With talk of health policy in the air, the conversation is moving beyond money towards bioethics.
This past weekend, Peter Singer wrote in the New York Times magazine that — gasp! — we’d have to draw the line somewhere when it came to expensive end-of-life care.
Legalizing payment for organs is a ferociously controversial topic in the organ world. Opponents fear exploitation—that the poor will become organ suppliers for the rich. (“You can imagine a scenario where someone would say, ‘Welfare? You’ve still got two kidneys!’ the political philosopher Peter Lawler has said. “There would be the expectation that your kidney might be understood as part of your net wealth.”) It is presumably true that most organ sellers would be poor; on the other hand, many of the recipients would be poor also. Others worry that paid donors would have a motive to lie about aspects of their medical history that might cause a transplant centre to reject them, and it’s true that while many kidney-related problems can be tested for, some crucial ones can be hidden—a family history of kidney disease or diabetes, for instance, or an individual history of kidney stones or drug abuse. The National Kidney Foundation opposes compensation on the grounds that it would “cheapen the gift”—that it may be an “affront” to those who have already donated. (“The argument that paying organ donors is ‘an affront’ to unpaid donors is disgusting,” Virginia Postrel, who donated a kidney to her acquaintance Sally Satel, wrote on her website. “Are unpaid donors giving organs to save lives or just to make themselves feel morally superior?”)
Postrel’s right. The National Kidney Foundation is making an affront to actual donors if it’s actually suggesting that the main reason they’re donating is for their own sense of self satisfaction. How dare you cheapen my gift, as though the whole point of kidney donation were actually to help the recipients?
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.