Is your body your own?
If so (and I know that 99% of you nodded in affirmation of the above question), then shouldn’t it be yours to do with as you please, provided you harm no one else?
And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you be allowed to sell it, in parts or as a whole, to a willing buyer?
Robin watched a reason.tv video this morning concerning organ donations. In the U.S., we have a severe shortage of donor kidneys, and the Reason piece talked about the fact that it’s illegal for a donor to sell a kidney. You can donate one free of charge, but there’s a federal law against saying, “I’m willing to sell a kidney; please submit some bids.”
They also mentioned that the only country in the world where you can legally sell a kidney is Iran. And guess the only country in the world where there’s no waiting list for donor kidneys? That’s right…Iran again.
Now, I’m not suggesting we emulate the Iranians in any way, shape, or form, but why is it that their country is the only place in the world where self-ownership is taken to its logical conclusion when it comes to one’s own organs?
Here in the U.S., you can give away your kidney for free, but the second you receive a single cent for it in compensation, you’ve violated federal law. This is despite the fact that everyone else involved in the process is not working for free. Everyone is compensated properly: the surgeons who perform the transplant, the nurses who assist, certainly the recipient, and even the folks who mop the floor in the E.R. afterwards. Everyone is compensated…except the person actually providing the good in question.
How messed up is that, when you stop and think about it?
Part of the reason for this attitude is the insidious doctrine of altruism that has infested Western thought, the brainchild of Immanuel Kant. In short, it is held that an action is immoral when it benefits yourself, and moral when it benefits another. Therefore, if you want to give your kidney away to Joe Smith because he needs one, people will laud you as a selfless hero…but if you contact Joe Smith and negotiate a price for that kidney so you may have compensation for the surgery and the subsequent increased risk of health issues, you’re a selfish profiteer.
I’ve heard the arguments against legalizing the sale of one’s organs–rich people will buy the organs of poor people, and we have to protect people from the results of their bad decisions at all costs, and all that nonsense. Yet 5,000 people die every year while on the waiting list for a kidney, and those folks are written off as collateral damage in the process. If we let the market determine the supply, the waiting list could be eliminated virtually overnight, and everyone involved would make out in the process. We’d save a ton of lives, and more importantly, we’d give more than just lip service to the notion that a person is their own master, and not the property of the community.
Well, do you own your body? If not, then who does? Why shouldn’t you be allowed to sell what you may give away for free?
ADDENDUM: Standard Mischief makes a great point in the Comments section.
If you die in an accident, and you have the “Organ Donor” thingie on your driver’s license (or your family gives consent to the donation), everybody involved in the process makes a ton of cash–profit–off your spare parts: the hospital, the organ transport agent, the surgeon, and so on. Ever wonder why not even your estate is not allowed to partake in those profits? That’s hardly about protecting you at that point, is it?