Organ Sales Since 1984, the buying and selling of human organs has been illegal in the United States. This prohibition on organ markets is very controversial. In the future it may not be the problem that it is today because of advances in the field of medicine. Unfortunately, right now there is an increasing scarcity of organs, and the waiting lists for livers, hearts, and other such organs get longer everyday. People are dying from this law, last year, 4,855 people died waiting for organ transplants in the United States (Waiting For a Chance to Live).
To remedy this problem, the Federal government should repeal the prohibition on the sale of human organs; they should keep close tabs and impose regulations in order to keep the market fair. This economical and ethical problem is one in which government interference would definitely benefit the individuals involved. If people do truly own one thing, it is our own bodies, and we should be able to do with them as we please. It’s legal to sell your hair or reproductive materials, but somehow legislators have come to the decision that the sale of a kidney is different than a woman selling a clutch of her eggs. Medical research companies can make huge profits off of products that come from DNA or cells taken without consent. Despite the many ethical concerns that some individuals may have, in a free country we should have the profit in any way we can so long as it doesn’t hurt others.
Any living individual should be able to sell their organs, but only to the governments, as some experts in the field of transplants have proposed. The government could then disperse the organs as they saw fit, to the sickest individuals first. There should also be stringent regulations on the condition of the organs being sold, so as to avoid an influx of bad organs into the market from people who are desperate for money. Blood banks had a quality problem until they switched to a strictly voluntary basis, but that is the system which organ banks use now, and it is obviously hopelessly inadequate. There are simply too few people willing to donate their organs. Brian Nottage says of the wait for kidneys, If allowed to trade freely, an equilibrium quantity that is higher than this amount would surely result, eliminating most of the shortage and waiting time. His numbers indicate that a $20,000 increase in the price for a kidney would bring around a 50% higher donation rate. He also says that the deadweight loss of welfare could be as high as $100 million.
Cadaver organs should also be considered fair game as well. Some prominent people in the medical and ethical communities have advanced the idea that unless otherwise specified, consent for donation should be assumed. This is also how some European nations have come to deal with the ever-growing problem. Improvements during the past decade in the safety and effectiveness of liver, heart, and kidney transplants induced a rapid growth in the demand for organs, which now far exceeds supply. (How Uncle Sam Could Ease the Organ Shortage) This shows how the demand for organs is elastic.
The supply of organs is elastic as well, but with no new incentives to donate or the right to sell organs, the supply has leveled off, leaving an increasing amount of people on waiting lists. Now, while government interference in trade is usually a bad thing, it would in this case help to ensure that everyone in need of a transplant received one. There are stories of wealthy foreigners coming to American clinics and using money to jump the waiting lists and get transplants while poorer people go without the kidneys or livers they need. Because a binding price ceiling would cause a shortage, the government should let the market find it’s own equilibrium. But because this could conceivably leave people without the means to purchase one on their own out in the cold, the government could help poorer patients out financially in some manner.
The advantages of a repeal on the prohibition would be that thousands of people who otherwise would have died while waiting for an organ transplant would live, and others can have a little bit of extra money as well as the knowledge that they helped someone live. There are plenty of stories about organ thieves, because it is said, that if any market is illegal, there will be a black market for it. Legalizing organ sales would wipe out any chance of this happening at all, farfetched as it is. If the market for organs was legalized, it would initially raise the price of organs. However, as more and more transplants were performed because supply was meeting demand, or at least coming closer, the operations would become much more routine, and the price would fall as this happened, which would make it more affordable for everyone.