Here we are, only a couple of weeks after my “Get off Dialysis: buy a kidney” post, and this comment arrived:
hey everyone… my name is jay d. macacua of Philippines…..! i am 23 yrs old and i would like to sell my kidney….! i am serious my blood type is A and I am willing to sell my one healthy kidney just drop a call on me here is my phone number *********** thanks and I am looking more forward to help.. just call me
All new posts must be approved before they go onto the blog, and when I saw this one I didn’t really know how to respond. It is illegal to pay for body parts in Australia and most of the world (except Iran). However, I believe that we need a better, ethically oriented incentive system to promote organ donation and publishing this offer could add some light to the debate…
So rather than simply publish, I decided to make it the subject of this week’s post.
While it is unethical (and some say immoral) to buy a replacement organ, there is clearly a market. There are many economic donors like Jay, who simply need the money. However, most research done about these donors shows that they usually receive no lasting benefit. The money arrives, and because it makes no real change to their lives (it is used to pay off debt or to make a splash), it is quickly spent and they are back where they began, only with one less kidney. This outcome simply reinforces the unethical nature of the transaction.
But what if part of the deal included a legal responsibility to help economic donors improve their life, at least as much as the donation would improve the recipient’s life? What if the recipient got to know all about the donor and his life: what he needs, why he is donating, how the money could be used to help him and his family? He could then help the donor use the money as a catalyst for change: to buy an education for a job, or a better job, to start a business, to migrate to a safer country, etc. He could also offer his resources, his knowledge, and his network, to provide the donor with ongoing advice and support.
Would the transaction still be unethical?
This approach need not be restricted to third-world countries. As has been noted elsewhere, western governments could establish similar arrangements to even out the transaction, and thus promote organ donations in their countries. Arrangements like tax breaks, guaranteed health insurance, college/university scholarships for the donor’s children, deposits in their retirement/ superannuation accounts, and so on.
Not to mention establishing the same social arrangement, where the recipient has a social obligation to the donor. After all, if someone gives you the gift of life, surely it’s not too much to ask to keep in touch and help out where you can.
There are two big arguments for better organ donation incentives: the financial – million dollar reductions in the cost to the health services, and the human – the opportunity for thousands of recipients to resume productive, fruitful lives.
All we need is the right model, based on a healthy mix of the ethical and the practical.