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Solving the Organ Transplant "Crisis"
by Steve Pudlo
22 July 2003

Of all the parties involved in the organ transplant business, there is a conspicuous lack of concern for the pecuniary interests of the organ donor.  Everybody in the medical equation makes money from someone's organs except the person supplying them.

The Human Heart

Organ transplants are considered one of the marvels of modern medicine. Their potential as lifesavers, however, is stunted by the lack of donors willing to part with their parts for the benefit of a stranger. The government and medical community have gone bonkers trying to persuade us, the public, to donate organs to the point where grieving relatives are assailed in hospital waiting rooms by transplant vultures before their beloved is cold. This is not a decision best made during those most emotional times.

To be sure, there is a shortage of available body parts for people who need them. What there doesn't seem to be a shortage of is people and organizations who make money from the transplant business. Let me see here, the doctor who puts the organs into the recipient makes money as does the hospital performing the surgery. The folks who transport the organs from one site to another get paid (although some airlines will transport them for free, there remains a need to get them to the plane, and then to the hospital). Then the doctors who remove the organs from the donor make money, as does that hospital, sometimes even before funeral arrangements are made for whatever the scavengers leave behind for the grieving relatives.

Of all the moneyed interests portrayed here is a conspicuous lack of concern for the interests of the organ donor. Imagine that! Everybody in the medical equation makes money from someone's organs except the person supplying them. Come now, we can't see why people aren't queuing up to enrich others for absolutely no benefit of their own? Not only are we startled by this fact, but when the social pressure of "giving" versus "selling" enters the equation, WE'RE considered the bad guys for not pouring raw material into the medical money machine. All out of the goodness of our hearts, of course.

If we remove the social guilt trip laid upon us by those who themselves are strangely unaffected by the same, if we join their pecuniary interests, we might be persuaded to become a part of this solution rather than becoming another victim of it.

Why the very nerve! Some might think (and many say), that I am advocating the selling of body parts. I counter: What's wrong with that? The opposition usually descends into much sputtering and gasping and gnashing of teeth at that point. Well?

But wouldn't this greatly increase the costs to the recipient? I have two responses to that. First of all, how much does a transplant operation cost the recipient (or their insurance company)? Lots. A few more thousand dollars spent in order to start the process rolling is chicken feed when compared with the thousands spent for the operation. Secondly, just how much is your life worth? If you are willing to spend mega thousands for life-saving surgery, why would you suddenly recoil when it is suggested that you actually pay for the organ you are saving yourself with? Hmm? What does that make you? Should I answer that, or is it becoming apparent?

The whole issue boils down to, Whose organs are they anyway? If the organs belong to the body they are in, then why cannot that person decide their disposition? Are we to assume that your body parts belong to the medical establishment who decides who gets them when you're finished? Just who is entitled to them? And why? Does a need for one part justify a claim upon someone else? And if that need justifies the carving out of body organs, why does it not justify a parallel claim upon the medical personnel and organizations to do a little work and install them as well? Why is one expected to make the sacrifice for free, but the others are not?

And if the doctors and medical establishment feel free to charge for transplant services, then why not the source of the organ? Why are people being cut out of the money to be made by their goodwill? And why is the medical establishment, who gain financially from the transplant industry, so bent and determined that making money off of organ transplants is so wrong?

If the organs are truly yours, then why the guilt trip laid upon people who refuse donations? Why cannot medical organizations offer to help with burial expenses, past medical bills, or even add to the estate of a donor in order to secure the donation? If there would be no donation otherwise - who loses from the lack of such an offer? And who gains from the offer freely accepted?

And if the organs are not truly yours, if there is an expectation that someone else is entitled to them, then why not come out and say it? Why play this head game with the public as if to say that if you lay a guilt trip on a poor grieving relative, they might give you an organ to make money from.

When I was young and liberal, I put "organ donor" on my driver's license to show that I was socially conscious, aware, and being GOOD. What I was doing was being a sap. When I woke up and saw the truth, and went back to have that removed from my license, I was subjected to stares of disapproval from the DMV folks who had to issue me a new license. My will states unequivocally that my organs are to stay put unless compensation is given.

Think for a while. If organs are such a life saving asset, then they ought to be worth something. Someone begging you for any other asset (while they make money from it) would be tossed out on their weaseling ear, and rightfully so. If you care for that asset, then you should be able to determine the disposition of that asset when you go, just like any other asset. Should you determine to give that asset away for free, then it should be tax deductible as any other charitable bequest from your estate. If not, then it should be treated as any other asset should be.

If selling an organ would enhance an estate, then one would be foolish not to do so. Therefore the concept  of selling organs would increase the availability of organs for the medical community to make money from  - oh and to save other people's lives as well.

Isn't it amazing that our squeamishness at solving a problem is costing us time that the very beneficiaries of a solution don't have?

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