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The Case for Legal Organ Sales

Summary:
The shortage of organs poses the great threat of preventable deaths. This is not just an issue in the UK but worldwide. An immediate solution? Legalise the sale of organs.Legalising the sale of organs will increase the supply of organs. This means shorter waiting lists for those waiting for donations. It means that more people will be able to receive life saving transplants. If you allow a private organs market to coexist with a system of donations, it also means that those least able to afford it will have greater access to organ donations, as the more wealthy pay for the luxury of a not having to wait for a state sourced organ. A private market will mean new sources of supply as those who do not currently donate for altruistic reasons are encouraged by the profit motive.  The majority of

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The shortage of organs poses the great threat of preventable deaths. This is not just an issue in the UK but worldwide. An immediate solution? Legalise the sale of organs.

Legalising the sale of organs will increase the supply of organs. This means shorter waiting lists for those waiting for donations. It means that more people will be able to receive life saving transplants. If you allow a private organs market to coexist with a system of donations, it also means that those least able to afford it will have greater access to organ donations, as the more wealthy pay for the luxury of a not having to wait for a state sourced organ. A private market will mean new sources of supply as those who do not currently donate for altruistic reasons are encouraged by the profit motive.  The majority of those who have currently opted to donate their organs will likely continue to do so regardless of the possibility of financial rewards. This will result in organs donated in an altruistic manner reaching more of the most vulnerable in society.

A private market for organ sale may even lead to a decrease in organ trafficking. As with any market, an increase in supply (caused by the legalisation of organ sales) will force the market price down. This phenomenon has been seen in perhaps the most unlikely of places: Iran. Not a country with many policies we ought to adopt, Iran takes a surprisingly liberal stance on the sale of  kidneys. Iran’s higher supply of kidney has kept prices relatively low. The increased supply of organs in Iran meant that by 1999 there was no one left on the waiting list for kidney transplants. The high supply and fall in demand led to  a fall in the incentive to traffic organs into Iran and would have the same effect if introduced internationally. The UN estimates that currently 5 to 10 percent of all kidney and liver donations worldwide are derived from trafficking. Victims of organ trafficking will also be able to seek help from the police without fear of arrest. The increased threat of investigation will also discourage organ traffickers due to  the likelihood of getting caught and prosecuted.

Some object to organ sales believing it will oblige the poorest in society into selling their body to exploitative third parties. While this is horrific, some people facing extreme poverty already resort to selling their organs on the black market despite the illegality. When doing so, they risk unsanitary procedures performed by potential unlicensed surgeons and the possibility of not even being paid. Indeed some groups steal organs. At least with a legal market, these groups could be held accountable. In Iran, the Iranian Patients’ Kidney Foundation arranges kidney transplants, removing the role for an intermediary broker. The Iranian Ministry of Health prevents the sale of kidneys to foreigners, in turn preventing organ trafficking, in order to sell kidneys to foreign demand. Combined, these two factors have led to the eradication of organ trafficking in Iran.

The legal sale of organs will also lead to a decreased strain on the NHS. While awaiting kidney transplants, patients require dialysis, an expensive daily treatment costing the NHS. It has been calculated that each kidney transplant saves the NHS over £200,000. The greater the number of kidney recipients, the fewer dialysis treatments need to be performed. Individuals will also be motivated to keep themselves healthy in order to secure a higher price for their organs. Not only does this benefit the individual (in the form of both health and financial benefits), it also benefits the country as a whole as fewer preventable illnesses will need to be treated on the NHS such as obesity or illness related to smoking. 

Not all organs are vital for a good quality of life. Many people do not object to a legal market for blood, eggs, or sperm, but there are other organs which the body can live without. Humans can survive with one lung, part of your liver or part of your kidney. The sale of organs need not be seen as an exploitative practice that will ruin the donor’s life. Although it may not be desirable, organ sales do offer a source of money for those battling extreme poverty. While some view the introduction of a opt out donation system (similar to that which we will have in Britain in spring of this year) as a more pleasant answer to the shortage of supply, it is not. It depends on donors of very specific physical traits having died. If you take organs from living people there is not such a long wait. 

A legal market for organs is the way to go. It is an effective solution to the shortage of organs needed for transplants and will help deal the with the issue of human trafficking. By legalising organ sales, you can help to protect the most vulnerable who pursue the sale of their organs (legally or illegally). Governments can protect potential donors with bodies performing the same functions that the current organ registry does, bar the procurement of organs. There is a cost to inaction. For far too many on a waiting list that cost is pain and suffering — or the loss of a loved one. There’s a solution out there ready to be tried. We need to jettison the ideologues that reject organ sales because they come with a price tag, and realise it’s worth potential backlash in order to save a life.

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