Selling organs for transplant....

Dr. Laura first posed this question after someone tried to auction off a kidney on ebay.

Is it illegal or immoral to sell a kidney? Why?

Selling organs for profit would be ethically wrong, as I see it, because it eliminates the poor from the running. A poor fellow who needs a new kidney wouldn’t be able to outbid a rich guy, even if the poor man is in greater need. A “first come, first served” method is more fair, because status and wealth aren’t a factor. (Of course, the poor man still needs insurance, or needs to be able to afford the surgery, but that’s another matter.)

Why does it matter if it eliminates the poor from the running? If the organ is mine why shouldn’t I be able to sell it to the highest bidder?


Agreed, Marc.
Dunno what else to say…the issue isn’t who can or can’t buy it, but that you–for some reason–shouldn’t be allowed to sell it.

I personally am an organ donor. If I die in the correct circumstances someone will recieve what ever parts of me are still viable. If such a situation were to come about, I would prefer My organs (eyes. liver, lungs whatever) go to the most needy of people. Sort of a charitable donation to the human race. Of course, I also know my family will not suffer financially at my demise (may it be long ways off).
I do not however have a problem with someone selling off organs of their own or brain-dead loved ones for profit.
If said relative did not object to such practice in life.
If someone were to sell their kindey to finance their holiday shopping I would consider it poor taste and greedy, yet would not object. It would remove someone off the “waiting for donation list.” I would rather see a viable organ in use even if to the highest bidder than not used.
Of course, all my friend and family are aware I am an organ donor and those organs are to be donated not sold (if it were an option)


Although I’d never sell one of my organs. Well, the price would be in the millions at the very least.


By that reasoning, any child I have is mine, why shouldn’t I be able to sell it?

The problem I have with selling one’s organs is that the poor, once again, get the short end of the stick. If I were a match for someone dying for want of a kidney I could not, in good conscience, look them in the eyes and say “How much are you willing to pay to stay alive, bub? Aw, don’t have enough? Too bad. Guess you’re not gonna make it, huh? Sorry, but I’ve got a 10 o’clock appointment with a millionaire who can pay what I’m asking.”

Giving organs is a grand and noble gesture, and it speaks ill of our society that we’re willing to rub our palms together and say, “Hey, I could make a few bucks from this!” How much can YOU afford for a new heart, or liver?

I, for one, am GLAD that people cannot sell their body parts, or else greed would make EVERY organ, every blood transfusion, every tissue available only to those who can pay top dollar. It puts a price on life, and that price would just go higher and higher. It would be survival of the richest, and only a few, generous people would give their organs away for free.

I cannot imagine anything worse than a mother telling her blind child that she’s sorry, but Mommy was outbid on those corneas and she just can’t afford them. Or, sitting by my husband’s hospital bed, heartsick because I couldn’t afford to buy him skin grafts after a fire.

Should I die, I want my organs to go to those who need them the most, not those who have money. Jesus Christ on a piece of toast, we’re talking about human life here! How sickening to think that we should put a price tag on it!

There was a good thread on this awhile ago, but it’s lost in the bowels of the archive.

Organs are not saleable goods because of a precept in the common law tradition that human beings are not property, so parts of them are not property, either. This was part of the legal justification for ending slavery.

If we’re going to be following a slippery slope argument here, then why shouldn’t we allow people to sell themselves into slavery or indentured servitude? By the argument “it’s mine, so I can sell it”, what belongs to you more than your self-determination.

Hansel, you do. It’s called “a job.” Or, perhaps, “a credit card.” Or, how about “a loan.” You enter into a contract to do something for someone. That we may break that contract by “quitting” or “declaring bankruptcy” doesn’t change the agreement you entered in the first place.

Of course, selling children and selling off an organ are pretty seperate affairs Lissa. By selling an organ we are going a little beyond “the coat off our back” and stepping it up to “the kidney in our back” but either way, it is the same deal methinks.

Again I agree with Marc…I ain’t doing it for less than being set for life. But then, with all the good food a few million would bring, I might need that kidney even more :wink:

Your coat wouldn’t mean life or death to another person. By selling the organ, you’re choosing who lives and who dies based on the size of their bank account.


ARL, you and the other libertarians around here need to get off this idea that a job or a loan is equivalent to indentured servitude. I’ve got a job, and I can quit any time I want to. I have a mortgage, and I can get out of that any time I want to just by defaulting on it - the bank gets the house, and so ends my obligation. I can enter into contracts from which I may have to pay a penalty for breaking the contract, but I don’t have the sign it if I’m not willing to pay the penalty.

Slavery and indentured servitude are far more serious affairs in which one’s human rights are denied. There’s a difference between entering into bondage and agreeing to exchange services or goods. Most importantly, my job, my mortgage, and the financing contract on my car are all invalidated in case any part of the agreement breaks the law (let alone proves unconstitutional). In the case of slavery or indentured servitude, I’m abrogating those rights as part of the agreement.

So having laid down that distinction, should one be able to sell oneself into indentured servitude or slavery? It’s my body, and my life: why shouldn’t I be able to?

** Not everyone in soceity is driven by greed Lissa. Not you or I, or possibly a dozen others out there!

I have to agree with you Lissa, I personally would not wish to sell an organ of mine. They can give them to the needy when I am done with them. Yet, I would not stop someone else form doing it. I am not one to force my ethical beliefs on someone else. If I do not agree with someone about their actions strongly enough I do not have to socialize with them.

Interesting that you can tell me what not to do with my organs but that I can’t telly myself what I can do with them.

Who says I WOULD sell it to the highest bidder in theory? It is possible, you know, that I have been compelled by pity and desire to help other people at times in my life.

Neither money nor compassion are, as a rule, motivating for me. I would hope this is true for all people.

Man, I swear I’ve agreed with you on a thread somewhere. :DYou should be allowed to sell yourself into servitude. Why not? I don’t understand. A loan and indentured servitude are matters of degree along the lines of a contractual agreement. You don’t have to enter into either of them, but if you want to more power to you.

I, for example, plan on staying at my current job for most of my working life, all of it if I can help it. I chose to do this for life, and yet this is different from indentured servitude how?
Oh, and I’m not a libertarian. :smiley: puh-leeez. They got some points, though. :wink:

…and this is what pops into my head.
Some sort of organ donor bank.
I’m not a doctor, and I have this sneaking suspicion someone is going to come in here and shoot me down on medical terms. But here is my plan anyway…

I have always donated blood. They keep this little record of my donations so that if I ever need blood, then I can get it for free. (I think) Up to the amount I previously donated.

Could we pass this system on to organs? Not just when people die, but parts that are not crucial for the donor to keep on living.

It is my understanding that you can live with one kidney. Bone marrow can be donated. I think I even read where they can cut off a PIECE of your liver and give that to someone without one. I’m not talking about unique pieces of your body like fingers. (or eyes and ears) I’m talking about stuff that you wouldn’t even know was gone.(why? cause it’s my plan that’s why!!)
Ok. So why should someone donate?

I can think of two reasons.

One. If they ever need a transplant they get to go to the front of the line. Poof!! they get the transplant they need. To make it a little more controversial, maybe they can even transfer the right to skip to the front of the line to a family memeber. (maybe) I also envision some kind of discount to the donor if they need a transplant.

Two. Cold hard cash. That’s right, the OP is about selling organs, so I just had to throw it in there. In addition to being at the top of the recipient list, they get…say $5000. It’s not really a pay off. I don’t want people heading to the hospital to pay their bills. (although for $5000 I’m sure some of the poor would) I see it more as compensation for the time you are recovering.
Of course the hospital stay is free when you donate. (or at least paid for by the recipient)

I could see this ending the waiting list for certain organs.
Any comments?

It seems as if a number of famous and poweful people have received organs, sometimes more than one.

While you might not be able to sell an organ, ironically it seems that you can buy one.

The only problem I have with this idea is the absurdity of removing one’s kidney, then asking for it back. Oops!

It would be more like a pawn shop anyway, wouldn’t it? You can reclaim your organ, unless someone needed it first…

Aynrandlover, are you open to any consequentialist arguments about why we shouldn’t allow something? Let me tempt you with a philosophical exercise: you give me a reason we shouldn’t allow organ sales.

Freedom nah. Organs need to be pretty damn fresh. Cecil did an article on this, somewhere, but my browser is crashing like mad on me right now and no hopes for searching. I’m lucky to get this damn thing out.

First of all, let me reply to the off-topic part of this post. hansel, i don’t think you understand what indentured servitude is. Indentured servitude is a contract between two willing people where one works for the other. The only difference about indentured servitude today is that there is usually a “way out” of the contract (which is actually part of the contract), with a severe penalty to the party who opted to break the contract. In reference to your mortgage example (which is actually an indenture, and has nothing to do with servitude), you can choose to break the contract, but you pay heavily for that decision (with your house). So in my not so humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with indentured servitude as long as both parties are willing participants. If you tell me that i can’t indenture myself, you are taking away my freedom.

Now some quotes from Lissa:

Okay, i want to sell my house. Some rich guy just offered me $300,000 for it. But, instead i think i’ll sell it to that poor family for $7.29, because they might die without it. (Note the finely tuned sarcasm.)

Hypothetically … there are 100 people waiting for a new kidney. Some guy sells one of his kidneys to person #43. #44 through #100 just got knocked up one notch in the waiting list … whether they are poor or not, they just benefited. If i had $1000 and i felt like giving it away … i give $100 to some rich guy, and i give $10 each to poor people … would you force me to take all the money back, just because i gave a larger sum to some rich guy?

A child is not “yours” in that sense. I own a table … i can chop it up into little pieces with an axe and throw it in the fireplace … i doubt i could do the same with a child.

Almost no one gives away their organs for free, unless it’s after that person has died. Do you think some people are going to say, “Wow, instead of giving away my liver for free when i’m dead, sell it for $50,000 and buy me a bigger coffin!”? I doubt it will have an effect on organ donors.

So, in conclusion, sell what you want from your body, it can only help society in general.

A reason, from me, to disallow organ sales?

OK. Organ sales could be akin to pollution rights. That is, you are deliberately harming yourself to aide another person. Market prices for organs would tend to become competitive and either drive up insurance rates or make them completely impractical.

But, I still don’t agree that it should be outlawed like it is. Again, more fear that “the almighty dollar” wil “crush the po’ fo’ks.” Sorry, but my compassion for others stops when they tell me what to do.

This is common as an urban legend, and was mentioned the last time we went around on this, but no one could come up with proof. Do you have a cite?