According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant. Some states have considered trying to solve the shortage of donor organs by requiring the legal owners of the aforementioned organs to “opt out” if they don’t want to give away thousands of dollars worth of organs for free at time of death.
A proposal in Massachusetts is sort of on the right track, but it only applies to a small segment of the population.
Newly proposed legislation would allow incarcerated people in Massachusetts to trade one precious commodity, donated organs, for another: Time.
Under HD.3822, a bill filed in the State House last month, incarcerated individuals could shave two months to one year off of their prison sentence in exchange for bone marrow and organ donations.
State Rep. Carlos González, one of the legislators behind the bill, told Boston.com in an email that he was inspired in part by a close friend who requires dialysis three to four times a week while he awaits a kidney transplant.
Of course, there are those who disagree with the idea.
However, the proposal has raised eyebrows — and questions — among ethicists and advocates for incarcerated peoples’ rights.
“When I saw the bill, it just smacked as unethical and depraved. And the reason is because it is unethical to sell organs; it is unethical to incentivize the selling of organs for very, very good reasons,” said Michael Cox, executive director of the prison abolition organization Black and Pink Massachusetts.
The incentive also raises legal questions, as the National Organ Transplant Act prohibits the exchange of a donation for ‘valuable consideration.’
My concern would be that incarcerated prisoners may not be ideal organ donors. They could have been intravenous drug users, potentially have hepatitis C and just not be in good health. I would think they’d be more likely to need a donated kidney rather than have a good one to spare. Also, it’s just a small segment of the population. However, the concept has some merit in that it recognizes incentives matter.
I have a much better way. How about compensating the decedents’ family for organ donations? Let people opt to have their organs harvested at time of death and the funds go into their estate. If people knew they were burying, say, $10,000 worth of organs they would be much more likely to contract for their sale when they no longer needed them.
Federal law currently does not allow for compensation of organ donors – except for blood plasma. This needs to change. There is an entrenched organ donation and resale industry that opposes compensation. I suspect these purveyors of donated organs do not like the idea because their cost to acquire organs could potentially go up, while the price for the products they sell would go down. Isn’t is strange that everyone seems to make money off donated organs except the owners?
The laws of supply and demand actually work. If you want more organs, just compensate people for them rather than appealing to their generous nature.