Home > Government intervention, Liberal, Market Solutions > Give Me Your Kidney, Don’t Worry I’m From the Government

Give Me Your Kidney, Don’t Worry I’m From the Government


A Democratic Lawmaker Richard Brodsky, with ambitions of being NY Attorney General, has introduced a new law that requires everyone be an organ donor. You can opt out but this is a significant change, since it makes donation the default position.

New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky nearly lost his daughter, Willie, at 4 years old when she needed a kidney transplant, and again 10 years later when her second kidney failed.

“We have 10,000 New Yorkers on the list today waiting for organs. We import half the organs we transplant. It is an unacceptable failed system,” Brodsky said.

To fix that, Brodsky introduced a new bill in Albany that would enroll all New Yorkers as an organ donor, unless they actually opt out of organ donation. It would be the first law of its kind in the United States.

I sympathize with anyone that needs an organ to survive. I’m a organ donor but that is my personal choice. I don’t have any religious reasons for not donating. It’s a choice everyone needs to make for themselves, depending on their personal preferences and/or religious beliefs. Yet, think of someone who does oppose organ donation on religious grounds. Could this law be construed as imposing a certain belief system on all religions?

I’m going to assume proponents of the measure will say, that you can opt out. But that really isn’t the same is it? What’s the notification process going to be? How hard is the opt out process? How many forms are involved? Is there a fee (tax) for opting out?  That doesn’t really make it a free choice, since any of those measures necessarily imposes a cost, be it time or money.

It also posses a interesting ethical dilema. Since Obama’s budget director, Peter Orzag, has come out saying that Obamacare will impose  rationing via the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), will doctors be thinking about saving your life or harvesting your kidneys for some politician’s 14 year old daughter? I think it’s fair to say that with any rationing board, the well connected, ie politicians and wealthy, get preferential treatment. How far will doctors go to save your life, if they can harvest your organs and save 4 others? Remember in collectivist societies, the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the one. A slippery slope will be created.

I agree that our organ donation policy needs to be changed. The 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, which prohibits payments to organ donors or their families, needs to be repealed. Some sort of payment system needs to be instituted. We already have a black market organ trade in the world.

Brazilian police reported that dozens of willing donors were flown from that nation’s destitute neighborhoods to South Africa where transplant surgery was performed on patients, including some from Israel. Recipients may have paid as much as U.S. $100,000 for their ill-gotten organs. Donors received a fraction of that amount, but a substantial sum nonetheless to those in desperate straits. (

One way to get rid of black markets, is to make them legal. With legality, come protection from fraud and abuse by the Courts. More than that “fraction” will go to the person donating the organ, or their family, which I think is a better arrangement, since it would be a life insurance policy for those without any life insurance now. Free markets are much better way to allocate scarce resources than government mandates anyway. Of course there are going to be those that object on ethical grounds, but I think they are wrong. Here’s a good article on why.

Walter Williams was the first person to get me thinking along the lines of a free, private organ market. This is what he has to say. (emphasis mine)

That’s because organs must be supplied to recipients at zero price. Huge shortages are the result, as it would be if cars, homes, food, dental services and clothing had to be supplied at zero price. That’s precisely the finding by Professors Randolph Beard, John Jackson and David Kaserman in their article “The Failure of U.S. Organ Procurement Policy,” published in the Winter 2008 edition of the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute Regulation magazine.

As of 2005, there were 90,000 Americans on the organ transplant waiting list that is expected to grow to 150,000 by 2015. The authors estimate that since 1990, close to 100,000 people have already died waiting for an organ and they estimate that by 2015, that number will have grown to 196,000. Such a toll doesn’t include all the pain and suffering of the waiting patient and his family.

There are a couple of factors, in addition to feel-good ethical values, that might explain the success of the ban on organ sales. People awaiting organs are disproportionately poor, minority, disorganized, sick and unaware of the cause of their plight. The people who benefit from their plight earn a lot of money and are highly organized. These are owners of dialysis clinics, those who receive funding for transplant research and agencies that manage organ procurement and allocation. In fact, everyone involved in the transplant business gets paid handsomely, except the organ donor. I’d like to know what standard of ethics justifies such a death toll and disconnect between costs and benefits

And Here:

During 1996, the number of people waiting for transplants versus the number of transplants supplied respectively, were: kidneys 36,013 vs. 11,949; livers 7,467 vs. 4,058; pancreas 1,786 vs. 1,022; hearts 3,935 vs. 2,381 and lungs 2,546 vs. 844. These shortages persist despite public and private efforts to make potential organ donors and their families aware of donation options.

Transplantable organ shortages would disappear overnight if people were permitted to sell organs. You say, “Williams, people shouldn’t make money selling organs!” I say, “Why not? Everybody else is making money on the deal.” Organ procurement organizations get $25,000 for just retrieving kidneys from cadavers. Transplant surgeons, hospitals and nurses profit mightily: liver transplant operations go for an average of $300,000 and that doesn’t include the money earned from follow-up care. Kidney transplant operations are $100,000 plus $12,000 per year follow-up care. If you think donation is such a great idea, how about also requiring that everybody having anything to do with organ transplantation donate their services and supplies? You say, “Williams, if we did that there’d be shortage of doctors and nurses to do transplants!” How come people can’t apply that same reasoning to organs?

There are other benefits from allowing people to sell their organs. For example, I smoke cigarettes and cigars. If I knew that my heart and lungs could become a part of my estate, I would take better care of them. But since my heirs can’t monetarily gain, it makes sense for me to die with completely used up organs just like I’d try to die with a zero bank balance if Congress wouldn’t allow me to bequeath money to my heirs.

Organ donation is a complicated issue. No doubt there are those that want the State to force everyone to donate, and there are those that refuse to donate. This new law sides with the State action side. Organs now, what else later? They are requiring you to donate now, well why not say that you can’t smoke, so that your lungs are in good working order when you die. Remember, your needs are low on the totem pole compared to the many right?

H/T: Hotair

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  1. yttik
    April 30, 2010 at 07:53

    We really cannot legislate morality. We can educate, we can try public awareness campaigns, but when we try to legislate it, we really foul things up.

    There aren’t any easy answers to paying donors. The problem is we don’t want to create a situation where somebody has to sell a kidney in order to go to school or put a down payment on a house. We don’t want the poor to become organ farms for the wealthy, which is already starting to happen. If your heirs could receive compensation for donating your organs after you died and it was something you had agreed to, that would be less problematic. LOL, but still, being human beings, you just know some heirs somewhere are going hasten your death so they can cash in.

    One concern I have is why we’re damaging so many kidneys. The need for transplants has skyrocketed. There is profit motive certainly, dialysis is big business, as are transplants. But we need to be looking at prevention and cures, perhaps creating artificial kidneys, rather then simply trying to increase the supply and demand.

  2. April 30, 2010 at 13:22

    There is never going to be a perfect situation. Yes an artificial kidney would be awesome, but unfortunately, who is going to invent one? Obama hasn’t exactly made the current environment great for innovation. I mean he’ll just come out and say you’ve earned enough money already, so you can’t profit from your invention at all.

    There are plenty of people making a lot of money on the system they way it is now. I’m not worried if there are few unscrupulous doctors or people selling kidneys….because on net everyone will be better off. I personally don’t think there is anything anyone (any human being or organization run by humans) can do to prevent bad things from happening. There is always risk to everything we do. We can all die in a car crash going down the block at anytime. Should we all stop driving because there is risk? Of course not! So why stop people from engaging in voluntary contract with each other, if they want to negotiate for a kidney, eyes, or what ever can be transplanted. If your dying from a liver problems, but have 2 good kidneys, and another guy that matches your organ type is dying from kidney failure but can donate part of his liver to save you….what give anyone, much less the State, the right to say no…we don’t think you can handle that responsibility. They’d rather you die waiting on the list. So who’s really helping who?

  3. yttik
    April 30, 2010 at 14:01

    I heard a comedian today that made me laugh. He was talking about the Civil War, and how people say Lincoln freed the slaves. He said, Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, polyester freed the slaves! Kind of funny because there might be some truth in that. Slavery officially ended long ago, but we didn’t begin to see a genuine civil rights movement until a few years after polyester hit the scene! It’s sarcasm of course, but for all the Gov’s attempts to regulate or ban things, to support innovation or to suppress it, the only thing that really motivates change is economics.

    We won’t cure the kidney shortage by paying donors, we won’t end potential exploitation, and we won’t reduce the number of kidneys needed. In a creepy kind of way, if we increase the supply, we could wind up increasing the demand. That’s how it works in the pharma industry in the US, we create a good drug for some ailment like anxiety disorder and suddenly everybody has anxiety disorder. We’re in a whole new world when we start applying the free market to medicine.

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