What’s Wrong with Selling your Organs?

It seems to be morally acceptable to sell one’s blood, sperm, eggs, and hair. So what’s so unacceptable about selling one’s kidney, for example?

And in case people think the forementioned sales are unacceptable, let me make another analogy: it’s okay to get paid to play football — why is using your body as a linebacker in order to earn an income acceptable, but using it as an organ store is not?

Is it because the person offering a kidney is doing so due to economic duress? So may be the linebacker. In fact, all of us who have to work, to pay for food and shelter, offer our bodies (brains included, sometimes) under economic duress to do so.

Is it that the linebacker is making an offer of service, but the organ seller is making an offer of product? The former is temporary, the latter permanent? But many people, not just athletes, suffer permanent debilitating injury.

Of course, there’s a possibility that people will start taking other people’s physical resources without consent. Theft and slavery are nothing new.

Will it lead to a black market? More often, legalizing something leads to regulation and a diminishment of black market activity.

Actually, we don’t sell blood. Not here in Canada. We give it away. Is it because it’s so necessary? Is that the difference? One can live without football… Is it that organs for sale violates the presumed equal right to life? But then all the pharmaceuticals required to live with an otherwise fatal condition should be free. And food.



    • laurent on October 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm
    • Reply

    Your other examples, blood etc are “renewables” while organs do not grow back. Selling organs exposes you to a lot of risk and it is likely to be an activity pursued under serious economic duress, that is what is wrong. Supply side is best addressed by fixing the defaults for donations, for example, opt out for accidental death donations. I am also from Canada, there is some evidence that blood donations lead to a better average product quality.

    • ptittle on November 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm
    • Reply

    Good point re being renewable. But it doesn’t apply to eggs. Which is perhaps why it’s still illegal to sell your eggs in Canada. As much risk there as with organ donation, insofar as the surgery. Unlike hair and sperm donations.

    But I think A LOT of jobs expose you to A LOT OF RISK, and are similarly undertaken only because of serious economic duress. So they’re wrong too.

    Interesting point about donations/sales and quality.

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