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We Should Legalize the Market for Human Organs

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Debate Details

Though organ transplantation has become a life-saving marvel of modern medicine, the donor waitlist is substantially longer than the supply, and many patients die before they can be treated. Thus, proponents claim, creating an economic incentive for organ donation will save lives. Others, however, argue that allowing the sale of harvested organs would decrease equity of access between the rich and poor and foster an illicit organ trade in developing nations.  Should we legalize the market for human organs? 

The Debaters

For the motion

Lloyd R. Cohen

Professor of Law at George Mason University

Lloyd has published scholarship on a variety of applications of economics to law, including a market in transplant organs, marriage and divorce, wrongful... Read More

Amy L. Friedman

M.D., Director of Transplantation and Professor of Surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University

Friedman was trained at Princeton, SUNY Downstate, and the University of Pennsylvania, she previously served on the faculties of Penn and Yale University... Read More

Sally Satel

M.D., Resident Scholar at AEI and a Psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C.

Satel was an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University from 1988 to 1993. She has written widely in academic journals on topics in psychiatry... Read More

Against the motion

James F. Childress

Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics at the University of Virginia

Childress directs the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life. He is the author of numerous articles and several books in bioethics, including... Read More

Francis L. Delmonico

M.D., Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Director of Medical Affairs of The Transplantation Society (TTS)

Delmonico works closely with the World Health Organization, where he has been appointed as an advisor on organ transplantation. In addition, he is... Read More

David Rothman

Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine and Director of the Center on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia

Rothman trained as a social historian, he has written widely on medicine. His subjects include the history of caretaker institutions, the implications... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Those in need of human organs cannot rely on altruism alone; there must also be a legal incentive to create the necessary supply.
  • A legal, regulated organ market would not only save lives, it would disincentivize individuals from turning to the often medically unsound and violent black market.
  • Compensation is legal for pregnancy surrogacy, egg donation and participation in medical trials; organ donation for profit would not constitute an unprecedented medical or social practice.
  • Though insurance companies now legally pay for the immediate costs associated with an organ donation, legalizing organ sales would help cover long-term medical costs for donors.
Against The Motion
  • Allowing individuals to contract the sale of their cadaveric organs would increase distrust and fear around organ donation, particularly as potential donors fear being declared dead prematurely.
  • Legalizing the sale of organs would increase the number of Americans that travel to developing nations in search of cheap human organs, motivating the poor to turn to organ harvesting for financial refuge.
  • If human organs become a commodity, donation rates will dwindle as potential donors see the exchange as a sale rather than an altruistic act.
  • The ability to purchase human organs, rather than wait on a donor list, would ensure only wealthy individuals have access to this life-saving treatment.

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The Research

The Research

A Third of Patients on Transplant List Are Not Eligible

Rob Stein
March 22, 2008

Sell Your Kidney for $50,000: Doctor

Kate Benson
May 5, 2008

A Gift of Life Deserves Compensation

Arthur J. Matas
November 7, 2007
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