Freedom Discussions

Your Organs Belong to the State

by Karen De Coster

The Wall Street Journal published this story about a kidney donor and potential recipient. Dolly Carew met a willing kidney donor, Bob Randall, on, and eventually, the surgeries were set to take place at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. Then the hospital called both of them to tell them the surgery was being canceled.

Randall was told the turnabout was due to “ethical reasons,” and suspects the hospital was uncomfortable with his and Carew’s resistance to paired or domino transplants, consisting of a chain of compatible donors and recipients.

Randall tells the paper that he received a fax on Wednesday from the hospital, saying that the hospital didn’t want to put him or Carew in a “compromising situation” and that it was concerned about Randall’s growing ties to Carew and her daughter, 9. Now the two are planning to file complaints with HHS and the state over their treatment by the hospital, and are looking to see if another facility would agree to host the operations.

Bob and Dolly did not want to partake in a kidney donation chain – Bob wanted his kidney to go directly to Dolly. But the state and medical establishment had other ideas, and they set the rules for your body. They demand that you accept the death sentence handed down by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS, a government agency) while you wait on death row its recipient list. Lloyd Cohen and David J. Undis refer to this as “organ socialism.” (See this 2006 article from by Lloyd Cohen and David J. Undis, Executive Director of Lifesharers.) Also, here’s a snippet from an excellent article on in 2005 by Stephanie Murphy:

According to its website, UNOS matches organ donors with waitlisted recipients by taking into consideration several factors both biological and logistical. They include the following: blood types and immunological characteristics of the donor and recipient, size of the organs to be transplanted, time spent on the UNOS waiting list, physical distance between the donor and the recipient, age of the recipient, and the ever controversial “medical need.”

The allocation process may seem quite complicated, but never fear. UNOS has policies and bylaws to help them decide who should get organs and who should not.

Government regulations explicitly prohibit the sale of human organs. In other words, the price of organs is fixed at zero. The demand for viable organs is enormous compared with the supply. It doesn’t take an economist to know that this is a recipe for a shortage.

Now look at this last, chilling paragraph from the WSJ article:

As the WSJ has reported, hospitals may be reluctant to agree to this kind of altruistic donation, fearing that donors may have been paid or that participants won’t make it through the rigorous psychological evaluation process, or because the practice sidesteps the official organ waiting lists.

So the practice of volunteering to give up a portion of your body – your property – to a willing recipient “sidesteps official waiting lists.” You can clearly see what kind of bureaucratic, socialistic scheming is taking place here.

Now here’s an interesting slice of libertarian thought on the topic from a guy in the establishment, the director of the Harvard Medical School Division of Medical Ethics:

Dan Brock, director of the Harvard Medical School Division of Medical Ethics, argued that it should be up to living donors where their organs go, the newsletter says. “The usual view is that a kidney is a private resource,” he said. “It’s my kidney in some kind of property sense. It’s even tighter than that — it’s an identity relation. ‘I am my body.’