Re: organ donation

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Fri Feb 22 2002 - 03:29:26 MST

On Fri, Feb 22, 2002 at 10:37:06PM +1300, Philip Howison wrote:
> Would it not be more extropian to encourage trade in human organs?
> I realise this sounds gruesome to many people, but it would
> definitely result in increased organ availability. It would be difficult
> to effectively police the trade but I think the returns would be worth it.
> Peoples selfish instincts are usually much more reliable than their
> altruism...

>From a philosophical libertarian standpoint this is of course the right
thing to do, since it is both a consequence of self-ownership and would
help make this concept more visible.

>From a practical standpoint it is less clear that it would be a good
idea. The supply is far below the demand, and is not getting better
since people are using more helmets and seatbelts in traffic (= less
braindead young motorcyclists) and many previously fatal conditions can
now be treated. This is by transplants from old people are increasing -
the organs are not as good as young organs, but they are available.
Trade would not really be able to improve on this, at least for
transplants requiring dead donors. It might be helpful when it comes to
kidneys and other organs that can be transplanted from living donors.
Most likely the market value of a heart transplant would be far higher
than the current cost, making many HMOs and socialized health care
systems loath to pay for them.

Trade can sometimes have paradoxal effects. In Britain they lowered the
pay for blood donations in order to improve the blood quality - many
alcoholics and other addicts were donating blood to pay for their habit,
making much of it substandard.

Politically this is so far beyond the pale, and strongly resisted by
both bioethicists and the medical community. Getting this kind of idea
through will take quite some time, and will necessarily imply taking a
philosophical, rhetorical and political fight with several established

In the long run the only way of handling the organ shortage is
artificial implants, xenografts or tissue engineering. In a way the
organ shortage is speeding the development of these technologies (which
have other benefits from a transhumanist point of view). In an organ
market of course they would be substitutes, and if the price of
transplant reached their equilibrium level there might be more
profitability in developing substitutes.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:40 MST