A few months ago, I wrote a post on my blog about organ donations, in which I outlined my arguments for legalizing selling one’s organs.
At no point did I even hint that I was actually in the market for a kidney, but the title of the post (“For Sale: One Kidney, Gently Used”) has pegged the Googles in some parts of the world. Now I receive one or two emails a week from people offering me their kidneys for sale. Most of them come from India (eight so far), but I also had one from Lithuania, one from Russia, and one from Kazakhstan. Asking prices run from $50,000 to $250,000, with the majority solidly in the $100-200k bracket.
Some will see this as a sad testimony to the exploitation of the Third World by us evil capitalist First-Worlders, but I see it as a lesson in economics. Where there’s a market, there will be buyers…and where there’s a huge perceived profit, there will be sellers. This applies to any in-demand commodity: food, fuel, drugs, guns, and even organs.
You may say these people are desperate and exploitable, but everybody falls into that category when the numbers are right. A quarter million dollars is an unimaginable fortune in a country where the average annual income is about $500.
Think about it, and imagine the same offer scaled to your annual income: would you give up one of your kidneys if someone in some far-off rich country was willing to pay you ten million bucks for it?
And how exactly would that kind of income source and wealth transfer be a bad thing for India? Sure, you’re more likely to get sick and die if you have a kidney missing, but would you take that risk in exchange for not only being able to afford all the health care you need, but also to provide for your entire extended family for the rest of their lives?
But apparently, it’s morally preferable for them to live in poverty instead and die at thirty-five from working at the fireworks factory, and it’s much more moral for the thousands of people dying on organ waiting lists every year to just wait their turn in the Altruism Lottery. Wouldn’t want the whole equation contaminated by profit…
(To reiterate for my readers in the non-English speaking world: I am not presently, nor have I ever been, in the market for a kidney, or any other body part.)