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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/30/19

9/11 Every Month -- Where's the Outrage?

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The headline on Hans Bader's piece at the Foundation for Economic Education is true as far as it goes: "Lifting the Ban on Kidney Sales Would Save 30,000 American Lives Annually." Bader draws on an earlier essay by Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy, who in turn riffs on findings published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The TL;DR: "Many Americans die every year because they need kidney transplants, in large part due to federal laws banning organ sales. ... [A]n average of over 30,000 Americans have died each year, because the ban prevented them from getting transplants in time."

My preferred version of the headline: "The US government, as a matter of policy, kills 30,000 Americans annually."

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That's 2,500 Americans every month.

And that body count consists only of Americans who die while awaiting kidney transplants.

It doesn't include those who die waiting for hearts, livers, or lungs that never arrive because patients -- or their insurers -- are forbidden to pay live donors, or the survivors of those who die with intact, transplantable organs, for those kidneys, livers, and lungs. Adding those deaths would almost certainly push the number above 2,977 every month.

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What's special about 2,977? It's the number of people killed by terrorist attackers (excluding the attackers themselves) on September 11, 2001.

As you may remember, Americans got pretty exercised about 9/11. Heck, we still DO get pretty exercised about it (for a recent example, note the reaction to US Representative Ilhan Omar's "some people did some things" comment).

But every month, month in and month out, year after year, the US government kills that many or more with its policies. The public response? Crickets.

The federal ban on paying donors or their survivors for organs is premised in a weird claim that paying donors or survivors for organs would be "unethical."

It's OK -- it's "ethical" -- to pay the surgeons. And the nurses. And the anesthesiologists. And the providers of anti-rejection drugs. And of course -- of course! -- the "medical ethicists" whose opinions underlie the ban.

Only the people who physically provide the indispensable elements of organ transplants, the organs, get empty envelopes come transplant payday.

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Where's the outrage? The US has been at war for 18 years straight now, with 9/11 as the excuse. But 9/11 every month barely raises eyebrows. The politicians and the "ethicists" they've listened to remain at large. And, yes, they are well-paid.

Scary stories about homeless people with drug problems selling kidneys for crack, or being denied transplants for lack of money are just that: Scary stories.

If the purchase of organs was made legal, insurers (presumably including Medicare and Medicaid) would leap at the opportunity to save the money now wasted on expensive care for patients slowly dying as hope fades. A market price would emerge and people with good organs would respond to the incentive -- probably mostly in the form of prospective post-mortem donors looking to ease their families' losses.

Of course, there would be a place for ethical considerations in that process. Hopefully better considerations than the currently prevailing ones.

 

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


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7 people are discussing this page, with 10 comments


June Genis

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I had to wait 11 years for a cadaveric kidney donor whose family received no compensation for their generosity. Fortunately I was able to last that long.

I once looked into buying a kidney overseas but like most black market operations I found that most of the money went to the brokers not the donors who were often mislead by the brokers. I'm sure such sales are still going on somewhere in the world. Ironically at the time I was looking Iraq was a major location but not I suspect anymore.

I agree completely that people or their survivors should be able to sell their organs in an open and honest market.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 8:25:43 PM

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David Pear

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People should be able to sell their dead body too.

When parsed out it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The skin and tendons are used for transplants and grafting. Hands, feet, heads, etc are sold to medical schools for students to practice surgery.

There is a big black market of funeral homes selling bodies without the relatives knowing it. A Brooklyn funder home even sold "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke, unbeknownst to the family.

Google "funeral home sells bodies" to see how big the black market is.

For poor relatives scraping by, selling a loved one's body could be a 'godsend'. Or a person might be able to pre-sell his/her body to make ends meet.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 9:09:54 PM

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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Human nature adapts. People become inured to poverty. People get used to wha they cannot change, especially when it is not directly affecting them.


Inured to the 24/7 bad news. It becomes background noise to their lives....and many folks are not that educated or intellectual to grasp complex societal 'stuff.'


Working 12 hours or 2 jobs and worrying about choosing between paying the rent or eating, they stop hearing.

Needing a break from all the noise, they tune it out...and have a drink.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 10:17:43 PM

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Life is a death sentence. Maybe an asteroid would be a blessing.

Submitted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 5:26:15 PM

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Don Smith

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I presume the ban on sales of bodies is intended to prevent criminal activity such as kidnapping people to harvest their organs. I heard that such criminality happens overseas: a person is kidnapped, drugged, and later wakes up with a scar on their abdomen where surgeons had cut out their kidney. One can imagine worse scenarios in which people are murdered or euthanized to harvest their organs.

Submitted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 6:05:49 PM

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That's one of the best arguments for legalizing the sale of organs.


Right now, someone who's rich enough can find a kidney or whatever on the black market. Which means he paid the Chinese government to shoot a prisoner in the head and send the organ to Thailand, where he will fly to for the surgery.


If payment for organs was legalized in the US, it would look something like this:


- Insurers would come up with the prices they're willing to pay for organs. The prices would probably differ some between "live donor gives kidney" and "dead donor allows organs to be harvested," but it would be known.


- Insurers would ALSO come up with a registry of some kind. To be an organ seller, either live or dead, you'd need to go in, get bloodwork, etc. so that potential matches are already on file, and sign a contract specifying what you're allowing to be taken, and when, and for how much.


- There wouldn't be brown paper sacks full of cash. There would be checks from an insurance company, made out to the donor (or the deceased donor's survivors). And there would almost certainly be both government and insurer/healthcare tracking mechanisms to determine the provenance of organs.


This would save insurers BIG money, because they would pay less for a kidney than they expected to spend on years of dialysis, multiple hospitalizations, etc. while someone waited on that kidney. Or a heart. Or a lung. Or a cornea.


At the same time, the price would be high enough that people who don't even think about donating organs now would START thinking about it.


I suspect that "take my organs when I die and give my family $X" would become nearly 100% opt-in. It would basically be a free life insurance policy that helps your family when you die.


And yes, there would be some people who really needed -- or really wanted -- a big payout and were willing to part with a kidney for that payout. It might be a down payment on a house, or startup money for a business, or, yes, enough to get a homeless person off the street, into an apartment, and fed while he or she gets their life together.


I can understand the hesitation and sadness on that last part, but keep in mind that the people in question are already making hard and sometimes dangerous choices just to stay alive. This might very well be their way out of ending up trading sex, trafficking drugs, stealing, etc. just to eat.


All of that really wouldn't leave ROOM for a black market in slipping someone a mickey, cutting out their kidneys, and leaving them in a hotel bathtub. Who would BUY that organ? There'd be a legit market already filling the demand with organs of known provenance, in which willing donors got their hospital stay, missed work paychecks, etc. covered, plus a bonus.

Submitted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 6:49:37 PM

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

Thank you for beating me to a reply on this one. I could never have put it as well.

Submitted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 6:56:24 PM

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Thomas Knapp

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GMTA :)

Submitted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 7:12:15 PM

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What would it take to provide Open, Informative, Alternative, Independent, Non-corporatized news to our "heartland"...where the most Trump-deluded supporters seem to exist?

No one would vote against their own interests if they had proper thorough information.

Who'd vote for candidates who approve of or ignore toxins, carcinogens in foods, air, water, etc., IF They Knew?

Submitted on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 2:05:34 AM

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"The heartland" has pretty extensive Internet access. And there's plenty of "Open, Informative, Alternative, Independent, Non-corporatized news" out there, although it would be hard to get any three people to agree on precisely what that means.


The problem isn't that the information isn't AVAILABLE. It's that people are people. They generally seek out "news" which confirms their biases and avoid "news" which doesn't.


That doesn't mean nobody can ever be convinced or have her mind changed. But it's hard. I don't know of any way to make it easier.

Submitted on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 9:35:36 AM

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