Attn, DC Reasonoids: Kerry Howley Debates Organ Markets, Tonight, May 9


On Wednesday, May 9, at 6:30PM, Reason's Kerry Howley will be participating in a debate about organ markets. The event is sponsored by America's Future Foundation, profiled today in The Washington Times. Details below:

Organ Markets: Ethical Dilemma Or Obvious Solution?

On Wednesday, May 9, AFF will host a roundtable on the ethics of organ sales. Over 70,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney and the list is growing every day. The 1984 National Organ Transplantation Act made it illegal to sell or acquire an organ for money, and created the often dreaded "national waiting list."

Donation solely by altruism is not working for most patients. Is organ donation simply a supply and demand problem that can be solved by introducing market incentives? Or is allowing financial gain for body parts a violation of basic human dignity? Is America ready to move to a free-market organ allocation process? Should we look to the European "presumed consent model" where all citizens are considered a donor unless they opt-out? Or is the answer to look at other non-monetary incentives?

Joining us to discuss these issues are Dr. Sally Satel of the American Enterprise Institute, Kerry Howley of Reason Magazine, Dr. Sam Crowe of the President's Council on Bioethics, and Michael Fragoso of the Family Research Council. Christie Raniszewski Herrera of the American Legislative Exchange Council will moderate.

The event will take place at the Fund for American Studies, 1706 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, near Dupont Circle. Drinks at 6:30; Roundtable begins at 7:00. Roundtables are free for members, $5 for non-members. So join today! Please RSVP to Kathleen O'Hearn at

Howley on markets for human tissue and more here and here.

NEXT: Revising Ronald Reagan

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  1. I wonder what the law says about organs created outside the donation process?

    I bet the same folks would want the same rules, or want the present law enforced.

    That, of course, creates a huge disincentive to develop a cloning/growing process and radically solve the transplant problem.

  2. I made a decision on this a few years back (maybe 10 now): I am refusing to donate my organs until it is legal to sell them. At that point, I will DONATE them.

  3. Reason: where one city banning foie gras is the first step towards 1984 but if you suggest that selling human organs might lead to some ugly consiquences you’ll be treated like you’re crazy.

  4. robc,

    Then they wouldn’t be a donation then. lol

    I agree somewhat. I think they should give you money when you agree to give them up, and that agreement should be binding. Say, $5000 dollars for the set, or something like that.

  5. Dan T.,

    The relevant question (at least from a political standpoint) isn’t whether allowing people to buy or sell organs might have “ugly consequences”–of course it will. Who disputes that? EVERYTHING has some ugly consequences. Increase the minimum wage, watch low-paying jobs get shipped overseas; eliminate the minimum wage, watch manual laborers for marginally profitable businesses make 4 bucks an hour. Allow markets in human organs, watch homeless people sell a kidney for apartment money; ban markets in human organs, watch…what we’re watching already: the government banning people willing to give up kidneys for a something more than zero dollars corresponding with people who would gladly give anything for a kidney–and who will die if he’s not allowed to.

    As for the foie gras: the libertarian analysis is more sophisticated than (benefits of foie gras) > (costs of f.g.), or even (benefits of banning f.g.) < (costs of banning f.g.). The problem is that the mindset of the legislators who favor banning f.g. must, of logical necessity, inexorably lead to bans on many other private, victimless crimes (“victimless” b/c these legislators are certainly not angling to ban production of, e.g., kosher beef, which requires that the animal’s throat be cut while it’s still conscious, etc.).

  6. The real question is whether we should ban those under 21 from selling their organs. After all, if an 18-year-old can’t be trusted to determine whether allowing someone to take pictures of her body is a good idea, clearly allowing her to sell her organs isn’t the breast idea in the world.

  7. Once we uncork the human cloning genie, this issue goes away.

  8. Here’s a quick ethics question:

    Is it etical for Jesse Jackson to extort the Atlanta Braves?

  9. Oh, THAT kind of organ. I thought we were still on prostitution.

  10. If Sally Satel debates as good as she writes, Kerry is in for a real challenge — Sally is often wrong but with cogent well written arguments which is more than I can say about most public intellectuals who I view as ‘often wrong’

  11. I’m not really in the market for an organ right now, but in the near future I might want to buy a nice calliope.

  12. I’m not really in the market for an organ right now, but in the near future I might want to buy a nice calliope.*

    Perhaps they will play “Squeeze Box” as an intro.

    I am interested to know what Ms. Howley thinks about the whole pipe vs. synthesizer debate, or even more importantly, non-amplified vs. amplified.

    As far as fit and finish, I am fine with sand paper but many purists are against it and only want old-style hand plane finishes.

    *dang you Stevo, beating me on that one!

  13. Is there anyway to watch or listen to this debate (other than actually going there of course)? I’d love to hear a good debate about something of substance for once.

  14. Attn, DC Reasonoids: Kerry Howley Debates Organ Markets

    I’m this close to formulating some kind of crack about being in the market for somebody to ‘bate my organ, but I can’t quite bring myself to do so.

  15. Stevo Darkly,

    Your restraint is…admirable.

    Dan T.,

    Don’t dis the market approach to organ donation. You may need a brain transplant someday; judging by your recent posts, you probably do already.

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