Is an open market on transplant organs the solution to chronic shortage?


Opt-out means marketers start with the assumption that you want their crap product unless you specifically tell them you don't. Now a British researcher has proposed making organ donation opt-out; this is, you'd have to tell the hospital you want to keep your organs or they'd automatically be harvested for reuse after your death.

Certainly Dr. John Troyer couldn't expect such a proposal to fly, but it does bring up the growing problem of illegal trade in organs. No longer just an urban legend, the value of a kidney on the black market represents a fortune to the world's deeply impoverished, and an active underground market has developed. According to Reuters, a kidney from Iraq can be had for around $500, while one in Turkey runs $5,000. Black market sales of other body parts such as skin is also a growing ethical and legal problem, complicated by the huge population worldwide waiting in vain for donated organs.

Some have proposed an above-board market be established for the dealing in transplantable organs, to increase availability and stem the black market trade. I suppose that soon thereafter we'd see futures, mutual funds, and derivatives based on the organ market.

Expect the ethical propriety of the aging citizens of wealthy countries buying body parts from the impoverished of developing nations to become a controversial issue as the population bubble reaches retirement age.

My take? I have a great distaste for playing on the need and ignorance of the poor to turn them into organ farms for the wealthy. How would you like to live with a price tag, redeemable on your death, hanging over your head when your neighbors and loved ones are going to bed hungry?