Afternoon InquisitionScienceSkepticism

AI: Oy Gevalt!

Last week, the FBI arrested 44 people, including a number of politicians and rabbis, in a series of raids in New Jersey for money laundering, corruption, and trafficking in human kidneys between New York and Israel.

The traffickers paid $10,000 for kidneys in Israel, and then charged patients waiting for transplants in the US $160,000 for the organs. And of course, this is the part of the story that gets everyone’s attention.

When asked why he participated in such activity, one rabbi declared, “What? They signed their donor cards.” 

Yeah, and az di bobe volt gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde!

But seriously, the Brooklyn man who appears to be the kidney broker has apparently been running the operation for a decade.

Don’t worry though. Today’s Inquisition is only slightly related:

Are you an organ donor? Have you or anyone close to you ever received a donated organ? What do you know about supposed transferred traits and memories claimed by some recipients?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. 1) Yes. (I donate blood as well.)

    2) Yes. (Corneas)

    3) Sure, the person who had the transplanted cornea can see the image of the donor’s murderer!

    Naw, just kidding. My grandmother got corneal transplants and can see clearly now, sans murderers, thank you…

  2. 1. I had to check my driver license but, yes, apparently I am.
    2. No.
    3. Not unless the organ in question happened to be a brain, in which case, I’d be more inclined to think it was the rest of the body that was donated.

  3. @Steve: Oooh, never thought about it that way.

    “Now, Mr. Disembodied Brain, due to the rarity of full-body donations, we have to work with what we have. And, might I say, you make a lovely woman…”

  4. @Sam Ogden: I think the problem is this question:

    “What do you know about supposed transferred traits and memories claimed by some recipients?”

    ‘Cuz the answers are all likely going to be similar to mine (LOL). :P

  5. 1) Yes

    2) No, but I’ve known people on waiting lists.

    3) Well, I’m sure that would work for people I’ve thought could stand have a brain transplant. I really want to see that happen!

  6. I am registered as an organ donor, and hope that once I die my organs can be used by someone else. I won’t need them after all!

    I don’t give blood for the simple reason that I faint very easily. I gave blood twice and both times went down like a sack of spuds soon afterwards.

    Never received an organ and as for the idea that organs can retain aspects of the person who donated them – bollocks. I do like that Halloween episode of the Simpsons where Homer is possessed by Snake’s hair though!

  7. @Sam Ogden: “Okay, so no one seems particularly chatty today.”

    I could have done better with a question like, “Should there be a limit to organ transplantation? Should the government limit what is spent on one person?”

    Friend of a friend is going in for her 4th kidney transplant on the government nickle (plus six zeros or so). Apparently if you drink your liver away you don’t make the transplant list. If you don’t follow your diabetes diet you get a frequent surgery card. “My next operation is free!”

  8. @davew: Guh! I could understand if she was just having problems following it and after her seocnd transplant, she was given some further counseling and instructions. I mean, changing your diet can be hard. BUT 4th?! That is insanity.

  9. @SophieHirschfeld: Did you comment or just post your icon?

    1) Yes – and donate blood.
    2) Nope
    3) It is crap; but as davew said – lots of bad horror using this as a premise. And Middleman – I read a science fiction book long ago were a person’s brain was all that was saved and there was a donor body. He was put in her body and she worked in zero gravity so had a tail grafted to her. No idea on the name of book or author.

  10. @davew:

    Maybe she got one or more of the kidneys the guys in the story brokered.

    BTW, I can always amend the post here:

    Should there be a limit to organ transplantation?

    Should the government limit what is spent on one person?

  11. @Sam Ogden: That’s difficult. I mean, every case is going to be different. How would you determine the limit? What would those be limits be?

    And in regards to government spending, davew made some good points: If you drink, you can’t get a liver. All transplants should have “rules” that if you don’t follow, make you ineligible (so that someone who does follow them and who also needs that organ can be moved up in the line). These rules should be reasonable and the information and instructions should be easily available, and therapy and/or counseling should also be available (especially with things like changes of diets — there should be a doctor or something the person could refer to with any questions or concerns ors upport).

  12. 1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Ridiculous.

    Now, if you knew you could get a cool $160k for one of your kidneys, would you do it?

    I don’t really like the idea of people cutting up my insides like that, but for that kind of money I would certainly consider it.

  13. @Catch22:

    Now, if you knew you could get a cool $160k for one of your kidneys, would you do it?

    That is a damn good question. I’d like to say, “No, I wouldn’t!” but I’d be lyin’. As long as my other kidney was in working order, I would seriously consider it. And probably for less than $160k. $10k sounds about right.

    But that could get really shaky, and I definitely see why that is illegal. It would be FAR too easy to take advantage of people.

  14. 1. Yes (and blood whenever I have enough iron… grrrr veggies…
    2. nope
    3. I will 2nd the “lol” and “it’s crap”

    As to your amended 4 and 5…

    4. Limit as to time/money/ things… or limit as to only so many donations per person? I have a problem with the 4th kidney girl, but if someone is in need of both a heart and a liver, I don’t think we should say “nope, just one!”

    5. See above I think.

    Honestly, besides the sticker on my ID, never gave it much thought.

  15. Thinking about a private market in organs always makes my head spin. On the one hand you’d practically solve the waiting list problem overnight, but on the other hand a world in which poor people give their organs to rich people for strikes me as frighteningly dystopian…

  16. @marilove: I rather like this idea as well… but yeah, way too many problems.

    Oh how’s this for sci fi… in the future you can donate your kidney or whatnot and then you get a free college education! Little do you know though that the govt implants you with a chip during the operation and you are secretly a sleeper agent who will use your new education to fulfill the crazy plans of the government! The perfect crime! Liberal elitist educated do-good-ers turned into zombie government drones!!!!

    I should pitch it to FOX

  17. (1) No, though I might be willing to donate organs (even while I still live) for the right price.
    (2) No
    (3) Well, that’s to be expected in a brain transplant.

    Why exactly should organ sales be illegal? Saying that it degrades “human dignity” is not a very good answer — are you really willing to let people die to prevent an icky violation of your aesthetic standards?

    If the objection is that people selling organs on the blackmarket are being paid too little, then perhaps you should advocate establishing a minimal legal price for kidneys. The current law, which prohibits sales but allows donations, is equivalent to setting a maximum price of $0 for kidneys.

  18. Some people go through multiple kidneys during their lifetime because they are afflicted with kidney disease/damage starting at a young age or suffer from congenital kidney defects. It’s not that they do anything to hasten the demise of the kidneys, it’s that your body is going to reject it sooner or later.

    With each transplantation, it becomes more complicated as your body becomes more sensitized to foreign antibodies. It becomes harder and harder to find a donor kidney that is a match.

    Some long-term kidney patients are not mentally able to deal with their illness when they are young and so they don’t take care of themselves as well as they should and they lose a kidney faster than they would have otherwise. But if that person matures and is ready to accept responsibility later in life, should they be made to suffer because of mistakes they made as a younger person?

    Each transplantation program has its own set of guidelines, though there is basic set of guidelines adhered to by all of them. They each get to set their own standards (within reason) regarding their willingness to re-transplant patients with a troubled history. Believe me, this is a VERY heated debate within the transplant community and doctors do not make these decisions lightly.

    Remember that refusing transplantation means that the only other option is dialysis. While some people can last many years on dialysis, it is still a death sentence. It does not work nearly as well as kidney does at clearing your body of waste and excess fluid.

    Gah, sorry for the ramble, but I know a lot about this topic.

  19. @Jacob Wintersmith: Okay, think of this like they do women who carry babies for other women (I forget the term aaaah!). The woman carrying the baby is paid, but only so much as to cover the costs of her pregnancy, medical costs, and aftercare after. That’s it. It’s tightly regulated. This is to at least attempt to stop poor women being taken advantage of.

  20. @Amanda: “Some long-term kidney patients are not mentally able to deal with their illness when they are young and so they don’t take care of themselves as well as they should and they lose a kidney faster than they would have otherwise.”

    Good comments!

    I agree these questions don’t have easy answers. I do find it vexing, however, that we add moral judgments to alcoholism and to a lesser extent smoking that have life-or-death consequences that we don’t apply to other behavior-related risks like failing to follow a prescribed diet or exercise regimen.

  21. I’m a (potential) organ donor and blood donor. However sadly my organs are no longer suitable because of some cancer bullshit.

    I think people who are susceptible to Morgellons Syndrome are much more likely to have some kind of personality transplant along with receiving a donated internal organ.

    Some rationing of organs seems rational and reasonable. Then again selling a kidney for $160,000 and only giving someone a 10% fee seems like a tasty option.

    Through Medicare and Medicaid rules, regulations and screening processes the government already sets limits on what is spent on many people. The real question is, should the government have that power over everyone.

  22. And I just remembered, but I recently signed up to be a potential bone marrow transplant. I don’t know if I would do the donation if I were picked (it would have to depend on a lot of factors, including how much time I would have to take off for work, etc), but I like that I could possibly help someone if I am able.

    If I ever write a will, I’m going to make sure it includes instructions on what to do with my body. That is, I do not want to be burried, nor just burned — use whatever organs and parts you can (donated to someone else, or for research). Then burn the rest of me. It just seems like SUCH a waste to have a bunch of useful organs rot in the ground.

  23. 1. I am an organ donor.

    2. Not that I can think of, but I did go to school with a girl who had 3 kidneys. I hope SHE eventually donated one. No need to be greedy and all…

    3. Transferred traits? I’d love to talk to that kook.

    4. I think there should be a limit, why give all the good parts to someone who goes through them too fast? On the flip side, as long as they go back to the bottom of the list and wait their turn, I have no heartburn with it.

    5. The government AND private industries limit what is spent on one person. Unless, of course, that person is using their own fortune. I don’t/won’t have that problem.

    As for post death, I say part me out like a car and toss me in the ground then plant a tree on me. Maybe one day that tree WILL be used to make a bible (a la Dane Cook) but that would be some ultimate universe irony that I would have appreciated in life. Still, being dead I won’t care.

  24. Yes and blood. I’m like one donation away from either my fourth or fifth gallon donated. Can’t remember for sure. My will is set up that any organs that can be donated are dontated. If I’m not in shape to donate then my body is supposed to go to a medical school, if that doesn’t work out then to a body farm to train forensic investigatores. If that doesn’t cut it it is supposed to be donated to a fraternity to be used for practical jokes.

    Oh come on.

  25. @Amazing: Oh good, now I have more info for my will “My will is set up that any organs that can be donated are dontated. If I’m not in shape to donate then my body is supposed to go to a medical school, if that doesn’t work out then to a body farm to train forensic investigatores.”

    Except if all that doesn’t work out, I want my body parts to be in PLAYS!

  26. @Sam Ogden: “Should the government limit what is spent on one person?”

    I think the answer to this is yes. Practically it already is. Some people do not get the medicine or the operation they need simply because it is too expensive. Granted it is usually an insurance company making the decision and they usually won’t put it like this, but the result is the same. Many effective drugs aren’t even marketed because they are too expensive.

    The problem we face now is the vast riches of medical tests and treatments we have available. As we invent more we use more and the resources that each person could possibly consume goes up every year. If we want to get health care costs under control we are going to have to say “no” frequently for no other reason than cost. The alternative will surely tank our economy.

  27. I have a friend who had wanted his organs donated, but the infection that killed him made his organs unsuitable. His cranium is now being used for facial reconstructions. Since his wife was able to send a photo of him to the research facility (I think it’s University of Tennessee, where the original Body Farm is located), it’s a great learning tool. How cool is that?

    Oh, and pretty much like everyone else:
    1) yes
    2) no–though I’ve known several donees
    3) Bwahahahahahah!
    4) Yes. Paying for organs is unethical because it can lead to coercion.
    5) Yes. But what the limits should be, I have no idea.

  28. I had a donor dot on the drivers license, but I’m chronically ill and they don’t want my organs anymore. They also sent me a lovely little card saying that they can’t use my blood the last time I tried to donate that.
    Oh the joy.

    Haven’t known anybody who has received an organ transplant.

    As for the transferred traits…I guess I could see someone developing a craving for some food, if the donated organ was deficient in a vitamin or something – and I’m still confused about how hormones function and what effect they have on personality – but those would seem to be medical issues that could be found and explained. Other than that the idea doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    The other question was should we limit what is spent on one person – as a chronically ill person, I’m not too fond of that idea. But I guess my personal choice is that if the costs are for pain relief or control – no limits. If it’s for life extension…maybe there is an acceptable (though still quite high) limit.

  29. I don’t know anyone, personally, who has recieved a donated organ. However, I did know someone personally who ended up becoming an organ donor.

    A friend of mine, in his teens, died of a gunshot wound to the head a few years back. We don’t know if it was suicide, or just a gun accident. I didn’t know of him having any sort of depression or anything, so I’d like to think it was just an accident. Anyway, his parents decided to donate his organs. He ended up a perfect match for 6 different individuals. So, there was some silver lining to the tragedy.

    I do have the organ donor dot on my license, and, if something were to happen, I’d like my story to turn out like my friend’s. I would also donate blood, but I don’t meet the requirements.

    As for the idea of transferred traits/memories? I don’t really know. It sounds unlikely, to me. But, with no observation, or much knowledge of the subject, I can’t really comment.

  30. I am an organ donor. I’d be a blood donor again but the tattoo restrictions are getting in the way which is fucking ridiculous as I have mine done in a location that uses universal precautions.

    As for knowing someone — I have a friend with donated corneas. We call him zombie eyes.

  31. @marilove:

    Generally, when you’re trying to stop someone being taken advantage of you put a minimum price on their good or service, not a maximum one.

    What you’re suggesting is akin to proposing a maximum wage for poor people to stop them from being exploited.

  32. Yes, organ donor. Used to give blood all the time, especially when I was in school and they came by a few times a year. In addition to the feel good quotient, you got free sandwiches, which used to be important, plus it was ridiculously easy to get a buzz after.
    I also used to give plasma when I lived in Michigan, I would do it because I had free time, and it supplemented my unemployment. I think it was 30 bucks a week (two donations a week) and all the tetanus inocculations you wanted. (tetanus inocculated plasma was more valuable for making drugs) Those needles were big, and it always felt weird and a little cold when they separated out the plasma, then reversed the flow and pumped your red blood cells back into your arm.

  33. I wouldn’t donate anything to a stranger, while alive, for money, unless we are talking ludicrous amounts of cash. I value my health and plan to use my body for my own life for as long as it still works. I might give a kidney to a family member, if it was one of those need it or die type of hypotheticals. After I’m dead, though, it’s on. Everything must go. (They might have to discount the liver, though, it’s got a lot of mileage.)

  34. 1: Yes. I expect everything useful to be removed from my body when I die and I’ve made that wish widely known to my family. Whole organs if possible and any tissue, bone, tendons, etc. (my eyesight is terrible so my corneas probably wouldn’t be useful). When I die my body is no longer of any use to me so I’d want to help other people and I hope that gift would bring comfort to my grieving relatives to know that lives may have been saved or made better. I can’t donate blood due to low clotting factors (which means I’d probably need a transfusion for any major surgery) so I encourage everyone I know who can to donate.

    2: Yes. My mom has a piece of cadaver bone in her neck as part of fusing the vertebrae, she was in incredible pain before the surgery. I also know several people who’ve received blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.

    3: Aside from a possible change of blood type from a bone marrow transplant absolutely not. Of course transplants are going to have a big psychological effect on the person receiving it and I’d expect any changes to be related to that.

  35. I find the whole affair somewhat ironic because I’ve encountered religious Jews who refuse to be pots-mortem organ donors because of some sort of prohibition against cutting up the body before burying it. As a secular Jew, I don’t like the idea of shunning a life-saving procedure simply because a book of mythology says we should be buried “whole.”

    Given that death is the scientific be-all end-all for us as individuals, *not* being an organ donor doesn’t make much sense.

    In any case, yes, I do have a relative who received an organ transplant — the organ came from a drug dealer, and we’ve cracked lots of jokes about “transferred traits” and such, but if there’s a “soul” that determines personality traits, I doubt it’s in the kidneys. ;)

  36. I have a signed organ donation card and I donate blood very regularly. I tried donating platelets but I didn’t produce enough and they told me not to bother.

    If organs can be bought and sold, people will be exploited. How about parents selling their children’s organs? Children need organs transplanted too sometimes. How about someone browbeating their partner to donate an organ and then taking off with the cash? How about prison officials allowing organ donation for a cut of the fee? Churches telling parishioners to donate their “God given” organs and then give the money to the church? How about drug adicts lying about their health status so their organs have higher value?

  37. 1) Yes. Alas, no blood. My hemoglobin has been too low the last few times I’ve tried, so I gave up.
    Have any of you heard an argument from people that refuse to donate organs, that the paramedics won’t work as hard to revive a potential donor, so they can use their organs? After hearing this chestnut a couple of times, I asked why the paramedics would value the potential recipient’s life more than the potential donor’s. They had no answer.
    2) Twice. I have a friend that had a couple of heart valves replaced after endocarditis. The second received a kidney. They told him it would last about 10 years and he would not get another one. He recently passed away. He was a casual acquaintance, so I lost track of him for several years, but I hope he made the best of his new life. Not very many of us know when and how we are going to die.

  38. @daedalus2u:
    If they go down that road, what about “harvesting” prisoners of war to help finance the war effort or many more death sentence penalties to harvest criminals organs?

  39. I have levels of friendship based on what I would donate to them.

    1) Blood. I would donate (and have donated) blood to anyone I don’t actively hate, including strangers. No blood for you, Hitler!

    2) Bone marrow. Bone marrow extraction is said to be extremely painful, so I think I would only be inclined to donate to a person I know. Though I did get tested for a friend’s little boy that had leukemia.

    3) Liver lobe. Requires general anesthesia and major abdominal surgery, but you can live without it and it will regenerate with time. I would donate a liver lobe to a casual friend in need.

    4) Kidney. I have an extra, but I will be screwed if that one conks out on me, so I would only give a kidney to a very good friend.

    Everything else is up for grabs after I die. Then it’s a free-for-all.

    I’ve given this some thought.

  40. There was a science fiction story about a future dystopia where criminals were executed and their organs harvested. To increase the supply, speeding and jaywalking were made into capital offenses.

    Prisoners in China have their organs harvested and Iran did take blood from POWs in the Iraq-Iran war.

  41. @daedalus2u: “To increase the supply, speeding and jaywalking were made into capital offenses. ”

    _Jigsaw Man_ by Larry Niven. Niven in is heyday had so many cool ideas woven into his stories especially his short stories.

    Speaking of China they also harvest extra girl babies and sell them for profit. The central government is trying to crack down, but it’s too big a money maker for the provinces to stop it completely.

  42. @daedalus2u:
    None of the problems you cite are unique to organs. I could use any of them apart from the children one to argue that selling practically any durable good should be illegal.

    The point of property rights is that people aren’t allow to steal your stuff. That goes for organs too.

  43. James, the problem is that making organs fungible by putting a price on them makes them worth stealing. If organs have a market price, then a person could be required to sell their organs to satisfy a debt. If organs are treated as simple property, then they can be taxed too. Take organs out of the unemployed before they can get any unemployment benefits.

  44. Daedalus, that’s just silly. The entire point of bankruptcy laws to recognize that a person is in debt beyond their ability to repay and allow them to shed debts in a way that enables them to go on with their life. We could give debtors to their creditors as indentured servants, but we don’t. For the same reasons, no sane bankruptcy law would ever require someone to sell organs. And I assure you that voters would never tolerate it either.

  45. I’m a registered organ donor and regular blood donor (despite a fear of needles and tendency to get REALLY pretty bruises afterwards). I don’t know anyone who’s recieved an organ, although my mom has artificial corneas, I think – it’s something to do with her eyes, anyway. I don’t know anything about transferred traits beyond the fact that being a bone marrow recipient can change your blood type to that of the donor.

    I do have an interesting (I think) story along these lines, though. When I was in college at the University of Oklahoma, there was a semester where there was a big display ad in the campus newspaper every day offering to pay for a couple of human ovums. They were paying $50,000 (might have been $500,000 – math is NOT my strong suit, and this was almost ten years ago) and covering all costs to retrieve the ovums.

    This sparked a LOT of outrage among the girls on campus – everybody was saying how wrong these people were and that anyone who sold their eggs like that was probably going to hell, because they were probably going to either try to genetically engineer The Perfect Kid (playing god, of course, which is a sin) or do some sort of experiments on it (which was probably sinful as well). Nobody asked my opinion, and I didn’t volunteer one because I thought their reasons for being upset were silly. The ad did not specify what the ovums would be used for, but I figured any interested party could ask.

    I would have happily donated my ovums to whatever they wanted them for in exchange for a big fat check, if not for the fact that they had a height requirement for donors and (once again – *sigh*) I was too short. I don’t have a problem with anyone using my tissue for most any kind of ethical experiments, and if they were trying to have The Perfect Kid and they want one of MY ovums, wow, what an honor. The child wouldn’t really be mine anyway – IMO, simple genetics does not make someone a parent, and that child’s parents would have been whomever was writing the check, NOT whoever donated the genetic material (as I said, MY opinion – feel free to disagree).

    I’m curious as to what you all think about my story – ladies, would you sell an ovum or two (not an ovary, an ovum – you’ve got tons) for a big fat check? Gentlemen, would you sell your sperm? Why or why not?

    This might be a good AI for tomorrow, girls. ;-)

  46. In order:
    1. Yes, definitely. After I’m gone, science can have what is useful for medical or educational purposes. Afterwards, I prefer cremation.

    2. The husband of a close friend is a multiple transplant recipient (heart and lungs, I believe). His struggle has been epic, as he was born a diabetic and has had severe chronic pain for most of his life. He is currently trying to recover from back surgery after a bad fall. Even so, he has been a very productive employee as a permanently disabled telecommuter and has a great sense of humor. I find his attitude…humbling…considering what most people complain about in life.

    3. (Unless we’re into brain transplants that I don’t know about….”Eye-gor, what have you been up to?”), I haven’t seen any credible evidence for transferred memories/traits with organs. Sounds like BS to me.

  47. 1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Poppycock
    4. No selling your organs, and if you’ve already had one liver an wreck i, you go to the back of the line and everyone else get cutsies.
    5. Yes, but not in a hard limit dollar amount sense. Not: “Sorry, your next procedure would put you at $100,010. No more surgery for you.”

  48. @davew: “I do find it vexing, however, that we add moral judgments to alcoholism and to a lesser extent smoking that have life-or-death consequences that we don’t apply to other behavior-related risks like failing to follow a prescribed diet or exercise regimen.”

    Yeah, I can’t say I disagree.

    I’m an organ donor and I’ve made it very very clear to my family members that I want as many of my organs as possible used when I die. I can’t, however, donate blood because I might have the mad cow.

  49. I am an organ donor. Everything will go to whoever needs it and then my brain will go to a research institute for narcolepsy. I have a friend who received half of her mother’s liver in a transplant many years ago. Both mother and daughter are very healthy to this day, it is quite amazing. I do find the claims of inherited traits from donors quite interesting, as it doesn’t seem entirely kooky to me that something like a taste for a specific food might somehow be related to your biological make-up, but I don’t have any personal exposure to it.

  50. Sperm donation? Not since I had a vasectomy after our last child (about 1985). No point to it… ;-)

    I would donate blood, but since I have an irrational fear of needles, they kinda don’t want me to do that. I guess that passing out isn’t good advertising for their services, not to mention I tie up a cot for an extended period.

    The fear of needles came about in a weird way. I didn’t care too much for them, but in my 30s my employer had a free blood screening. There was nothing about the needle stick that was unusual, but immediately afterwards I went pale and almost fell out of the chair. I’ve had that problem ever since that day. No idea why. Hypotheses welcome, as well as possible cures. :-D

  51. I actually started the process for egg “donation” last year, but the more I thought about it the less I liked the idea, and I was really miffed when I found out any payment would be taxed as income…
    However, NYS is working toward approving egg “donation” specifically for stem cell research, probably starting next year. I could get down with that.

  52. I’ve been posting off and on for just over a year and I think this is the first time anyone has said anything about my icon. Interesting.

    @davew: that thing about diabetes is untrue. Diabetics are given a thorough exam before any possible surgery and an overweight diabetic is less likely to get a transplant than people with other conditions. It is risky to give overweight people transplants and diabetics often have compromised immune systems. The strict guidelines for donation recipients are sometimes unreasonable, but most of them are there for a good reason. Self-destructive behavior is a great way to get off the donor list because doctors see your lifespan as more measurable (which is stupid, but only because a quick study of demographics of people who die will show you that the factors leading to most deaths don’t really correlate with the maladaptive behaviors they regulate against). I’m all too familiar with diabetics as an example for transplant lists because my mother spent time on one and when dialysis caused her to gain weight, they took her off. It was pretty f***ed up, but taught me a lot about the process as I helped my family try to fight the system to save my mother. Ultimately, she died while still on dialysis after going into a diabetic coma where lack of oxygen caused brain death. I do have to admit, though, that my mother would still have been a high risk recipient. She had thyroid issues and had just recovered from breast cancer treatment less than five years before her death.

  53. 1. Yes, I’m an organ donor.

    2. No, I don’t personally know anyone who has given/received a donated part. Which is why, considering the odds one will pop up in my circle, I’ve chosen to donate.

    No really, what are the odds that someone you know will need a donation? 1 in 100? More/Less?

    3. If that were possible penis replacements would be on the rise.,

  54. @marilove, @daedalus2u:

    These objections make no sense. Bankruptcy already exists to stop people losing everything of value to service their debts. In many states of the US you can’t lose your house to bankruptcy, so how likely is it people will lose their organs? I fully support making organs protected assets in the event of bankruptcy.

    Sure, a government could tax organs, but they can do that now, there’s no limit to what a government can tax. This too is a manageable issue, you just exempt organs from asset testing for taxes and benefits (for the record I think wealth taxes are a bad idea anyway, expect for taxes on realised capital gains).

    None of the objection you have raised are unmanageable, in fact they can all be managed with existing policy instruments. So why the objection? Thousands of lives a year could be saved by an organ market (not to mention the massive costs of treatments like dialysis). The problems you cite seem minor and easy dealt with by comparison.

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