Sick Girl May Get Transplant, But Whole System Totally Sick.


Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel (Reason archive here) writes about a horrifying case that underscores just how anti-human our current system of organ donation is.

After a tense legal battle, 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who needs a lung transplant, has been moved from the waiting list for children to that of adults, where the supply is vastly larger. But Sarah's potentially happy ending is no solution, writes Postrel at Bloomberg View:

The current system generally favors people in dire straits over healthier patients, for instance. It gives patients points for waiting a long time and, as a result, favors older, sicker patients over younger, healthier ones. That reflects one politically determined idea of fairness. But it would be equally fair– or equally unfair—to favor healthier patients who might live longer with the precious organ.

A sick little girl makes a compelling story. The tragedy is that if little Sarah gets her lung, someone else will go without.

Read the whole thing.

Regular readers know that Postrel is an organ donor herself who has written eloquently about how compensating donors would vastly help expand the supply of organs.

Pre-order Postrel's new book, Deep Glamour, and read her blog at her site here.

Watch this 2008 Reason TV video featuring Postrel and Drew Carey talking about how selling organs—yes, a difficult thought that offends many people—would save many, many more lives than relying on the existing system in which waiting lists for all sorts of organs and other transplant items cause as many problems as they solve.

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  1. I’m just hoping that the advancements in lab grown orgains and 3d printed matricies to grow them in will make donation unnecessary before too long.

  2. I only have one kidney, too, but you don’t hear people talking about how much better this place was when I was around.

    1. Maybe you should go away for a while so we can decide if that’s the case.

  3. Postrel is just a shill for Big Kidney.

  4. Aren’t there two issues with moving her to the adult list, (1) that adult lungs don’t generally work well in children and (2) that she has cystic fibrosis and is very unlikely to live much longer either way?

    It is a horrible situation but I think that switching what list she is on, rather than changing the rules, is a stupid and ultimately counterproductive way of doing this. Is a system where the most adorable patients get put first really a good idea?

    1. I was thinking on the drive to work that some people are just more valuable than others. I don’t really like it but that’s the way it is. It is why people can stand a certain amount of collateral damage in wars, yet if one little girl falls into a well in Smalltown, USA, we move Heaven and Earth to save her and give her back to her careless parents. Her life is worth so much, for what reason I have no idea. Potential? So others learn her story and how to beware of wells? Yet a dozen brown kids in the Middle East were just wrong place, wrong time, too bad, so sad. I mean one of them might grow up to cure cancer or bring lasting peace to the region and the well girl might blow guys on the corner for drug money. But hey, right now she’s cute! And probably blonde and blue eyed, too!

  5. This is definitaly an area where the gov’t prevention of a functioning market means I’m going to be totally selfish and not do anything to help anyone.

    Right now the only people to whom I’d offer to donate a kidney would be the family members I love and one, maybe two, long-term close friends.

    Now, if I could get $50, 60k I’d seriously consider it for anyone willing to pay.

    1. Here’s the thing, lots of people would do it for less than that and kidneys would be relatively affordable.

  6. Seems to me if you made it legal to be compensated for donating organs, yet made it illegal to donate someone else’s organs, we’d have a functioning system here, no?

    1. Except a lot of organ donation is from dead people.

      1. No need to compensate them then!

        1. So you think that hospitals should automatically take possession of the cadavers and be able to dispense the organs as they see fit?

          Help me out if I am wrong here, I’m just trying to see how a lack of compensation for the deceased’s organs fits in here.

          I’m with Zeb on this one. Organs are the property of an individual and thus ownership can be transferred like anything else. I think to insure proper transfer of ownership though, you’d want to have a system where the donors consent was clearly established before any remuneration was meted out (e.g. you can’t just show up at a organ donor bank with grandpa’s kidney and expect to get $15k for it).

          1. I was joking about just grabbing any dead guy’s organs with no approval. But my original point is one you picked up on. You can’t sell someone else’s organs, so that eliminates the urban legend of getting your kidneys stolen. But there is no reason a healthy individual shouldn’t be able to sell one’s own organs.

      2. You should be allowed to bequeath your organs to your heirs if you want.

  7. “The tragedy is that if little Sarah gets her lung, someone else will go without.” My local newspaper carries several obits a day of people who died under age 60. Multiply that nationwide and I’ll bet there are hundreds of reasonably healthy people who die each day who
    could donate organs – for free – if they just took the pre-death step of requesting to be a donor. Or, if a minor, the parents should be thrilled that some part of their child lives on in another.

  8. Fucking slavers. Let me sell my organs if I want to!

    Be offended by it all you want, but get the fuck out of the way and respect other people’s decisions.

  9. Anyone that thinks that government-run healthcare is going to fairly distribute scarce resources (i.e. lungs), is kidding themselves. In a world where government controls the resources, the amount of political pressure you can apply determines who gets the resources.

  10. My proposal is that people be allowed to leave their organs to their estate. The estate can sell the organs and the heirs get a few thousand dollars more than they otherwise would.

  11. Besides blood, one kidney, and bone marrow are there any other pieces of you to sell while still living a normal life? Just curious.

    1. Oh yeah, sperm and eggs, and I suppose womb for rent. Besides those?

    2. I work as a CNA on an organ transplant unit.
      You can give part of your liver, but from what I hear its success rate is lower.
      Recently, we had a live pancreas donation (part of the pancreas was donated). A live pancreas donation is highly unusual.

    3. I work as a CNA on an organ transplant unit.
      You can give part of your liver, but from what I hear its success rate is lower.
      Recently, we had a live pancreas donation (part of the pancreas was donated). A live pancreas donation is highly unusual.

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