Defending Organ Markets

In response to last week's arrest of Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who's accused of trafficking black market human organs, Village Voice blogger Roy Edroso dials up the snark, and challenges libertarians who advocate a free market in body organs to defend Rosenbaum.

There are lots of folks out there who need to send kids to school, or replace their siding, or pay off loan sharks -- yet our nanny state prevents them from selling their own guts to do it.

We've checked McArdle's site, Reason, Drew Carey -- no words of support for Rosenbaum yet. Surely they realize that this is the sort of case that will draw the common people to their side -- why the delay? Maybe Movable Type is down.

Ha! Because 15 people dying each day waiting for a lifesaving organ is funny! And useful for scoring cheap political points!

I won't defend Rosenbaum any more than I'd defend Al Capone or the Juarez drug cartel to argue the folly of alcohol and drug prohibition. That isn't the argument. The argument is that if there were a legal market in organs, people like Rosebuam wouldn't be necessary. Oh, and fewer people would die waiting for a kidney.

Erdroso also wrongly assumes the only possible model for an organ market would involve poor people offering their "guts" up on eBay. That isn't how it's likely to happen. One scenario, for example, might have firms paying people a sum of money while they're alive in exchange for access to their organs once they die. Another might pay a donor's next of kin upon his death. 

Edroso might look to Britain, which is facing a severe shortage of sperm and eggs for infertile couples. The reason? British law prohibits the selling of one's reproductive matter. That isn't the case in the U.S., where sperm and egg supplies well meet demand. There's no reason organ recipient lists need to be as long as they are. For Edroso, it's apparently better that people die waiting for a kidney than for him to have to endure the unpleasantness of contemplating a legal market in lifesaving organs.

One person with far more authority than I did address Rosenbaum's arrest. Here's kidney transplant patient Sally Satel in the Wall Street Journal:

According to the complaint, Mr. Rosenbaum said he had brokered such sales many times over the past 10 years.

“That it could happen in this country is so shocking,” said Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the Red Cross.

No, it isn’t. When I needed a kidney several years ago and had no donor in sight, I would have considered doing business with someone like Mr. Rosenbaum. The current law—the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984—gave me little choice. I would be a felon if I compensated a donor who was willing to spare me years of life-draining dialysis and premature death.

The early responses to the New Jersey scandal leave me dismayed, though not surprised. “We really have to crack down,” the co-director of the Joint Council of Europe/United Nations Study on Trafficking in Organs and Body Parts told MSNBC. That strategy is doomed, of course. It ignores the time-tested fact that efforts to stamp out underground markets either drive corruption further underground or causes it to flourish elsewhere.

The illicit organ trade is booming across the globe. It will only recede when the critical shortage of organs for transplants disappears. The best way to make that happen is to give legitimate incentives to people who might be willing to donate.

Here's Drew Carey on Reason.tv on organ markets:

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  • Citizen Nothing||

    A sad commentary on the state of today's Village Voice.
    Hentoff's out. Why bother with it?

  • bubba||

    I love the idea of tying it to an insurance policy type payout.

  • ||

    The illicit organ trade is booming across the globe. It will only recede when the critical shortage of organs for transplants disappears. The best way to make that happen is to give legitimate incentives to people who might be willing to donate.

    Actually I'd say the best way to relieve the shortage is to allow human organs to be grown in animal bodies. But the nanny state and it's supporters are equally opposed to that.

    We'll continue to see humans trading organs on the black market, because a bunch of people think growing organs articially would be unethical.

    What's worse, I ask? Using a pig to grow a human kidney, or having a starving human sell his kidney to a criminal gang?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Hazel, why can't we have both?

  • ||

    We can, but personally, I'd MUCH prefer to see animals used to grow human organs than poor people selling them. The animal-grown organ market will probably destroy the human one easily, if it is allowed to develop.

  • ||

    Like legalizing reefer, organ markets is a no brainer with massive upsides and little if any negative consequences to society.

    Good luck with convincing the retards who love Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

  • ||

    We can, but personally, I'd MUCH prefer to see animals used to grow human organs than poor people selling them. The animal-grown organ market will probably destroy the human one easily, if it is allowed to develop.

    Then you have nothing to worry about from a wide-open market. The human market will be transitory, but in the meantime will provide much-needed income to people who decide to take advantage of it.

    Its a win-win! Like just about everything in a market economy, if you think about it.

  • Joe||

    Are we talking about the Hammond B3 or regular old pipe organ?

  • FLAPPY THE EAGLE||

    STOP USING YOUR LIVERS AND GIVE THEM TO ME TO EAT!!

  • Animal Crackers in My Soup||

    "Hammond B3 or regular old pipe organ?"

    Does the Hammond come with a Leslie speaker?

  • Space Fiend||

    I can think of few other issues that exemplify the big-government liberal culture of death so explicitly.

    They believe in control so deeply and implicitly they are willing to let perfectly innocent people die to maintain it. They are no better whatsoever than any of the worst communist and socialist (national or otherwise) criminals in history.

  • Brian Moore||

    "We've checked McArdle's site, Reason, Drew Carey -- no words of support for Rosenbaum yet. Surely they realize that this is the sort of case that will draw the common people to their side -- why the delay? Maybe Movable Type is down."

    I'll support him, assuming he didn't do any of the other immoral things that black marketeers often do. I'd say the same for the guy on the corner selling pot.

  • Robert||

    I'm afraid we're in one of those locks maintained by positive feedback. Make something illegal, it gets done only by thugs, then people see such criminal activity as confirmation for why it was made illegal to begin with.

    However, independently of that, there are those in the social engrg. wing of the "left" who say the shortening of some lives is worth it to avoid the coarsening of society that would attend the trading of body parts for money. The knowledge that human life could be so starkly dependent on the market (as opposed to on democracy or, better, experts), and that that situation was countenanced by law, would make living extra years too unpleasant to be worthwhile.

  • ||

    to avoid the coarsening of society that would attend the trading of body parts for money. The knowledge that human life could be so starkly dependent on the market (as opposed to on democracy or, better, experts),

    LOL. Because my life would be so much less 'coarsened' by having people VOTE on the disposal of my body parts, or having an 'expert' decide what to do with them.

    Why, exactly, is it that people think that someone paying another money is 'coarse' while having a public vote on what to do with other people's lives isn't coarse?

    selling someone into slavery = vulgar and coarse
    voting someone into slavery = refined and high-minded

    Why?

  • Robert||

    I think it's because everyone feels they have a part in it when it comes to voting someone into slavery. And apparently that's a good thing.

  • Kevin||

    Just like sex. Statists love it when you give it away but hate it when it's on the market.

  • SFH||

    Hazel Meade | July 27, 2009, 4:02pm | #
    We can, but personally, I'd MUCH prefer to see animals used to grow human organs than poor people selling them. The animal-grown organ market will probably destroy the human one easily, if it is allowed to develop.


    There's a problem with that, because a lot of human diseases originated in animals. Using animal-grown organs is a good way to spread diseases from animals to humans.

  • Dave Undis||

    As the death toll from the organ shortage mounts, public opinion will eventually support an organ market. Changes in public policy will then follow.

    In the mean time, there is an already-legal way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. UNOS, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

    Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Non-donors should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

  • ||

    Mr. Undis' fear-based scheme to increase organ donation will never happen. He would like to create two waiting lists: those who have registered as organ donors, and those who have not. Available organs would first go to those who have registered as donors. The theory is that more people will register to be donors if they think they might miss out on the opportunity to receive a lifesaving transplant in the future.

    Lifesharers promises preferred access to the organs of other Lifesharers who die. The only way a Lifesharer will receive the organs of a fellow member is for them to meet the existing criteria used by the national organ allocation system.

    Mr. Undis has been trying to enlist members for his "organ club" for more than six years. He has signed up a little more than 12,000 members in that time. Those of us legimitately engaged in this lifesaving work every day have registered more than 82 million Americans.

    If Mr. Undis was serious about increasing organ donation, he would encourage Americans, as we do, to go to www.donatelife.net and find out how to become a registered donor in their own state.

    Phil Van Stavern
    LifeShare of Oklahoma
    (21-year kidney recipient)

  • ||

    There's a problem with that, because a lot of human diseases originated in animals. Using animal-grown organs is a good way to spread diseases from animals to humans.

    A) Organ recipients are ALREADY DYING of some disease. Otherwise they wouldn't need an organ.
    B) I'm sure the biomedical engineers have thought of this.

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