A Competitive Market in Human Organs
In the United States alone, there are thousands of people every year whose lives could be saved by means of a liver or kidney transplant but who die because organs are unavailable. Even the tens of thousands who obtain a transplant often have to wait years for an operation, during which time their quality of life and their post-operative prospects deteriorate. A sure way of increasing supply to meet the demand is to permit live donors to sell their organs in a competitive market. However, there is staunch opposition to permitting trade in human organs. It is objected that such trade would undermine altruism, coerce the poor, entice people to make decisions on inadequate information, increase inequality, degrade the people who engage in it, be analogous to slavery, compel people to pay costs that they should not have to pay, and diminish the options available to third parties. I argue that each of these objections is without merit.
The focus of this paper is sales of kidneys, livers and liver-sections; but sales of other organs will be considered explicitly in places. In section 2, I present the case for a competitive market in human organs, offering both consequentialist and deontological arguments. In section 3, I raise and rebut the main philosophical objections to a market in human organs. In large part this is a discussion of Satz 2010, which rehearses the old objections and offers some new ones. In section 4, I conclude the discussion.
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