Free Market for Organs?

Tonight I came across the article “Bring On the Organ Market” on, of course, (where else would one expect such a Libertarian-themed article to appear?)

Bill Steigerwald does a great job penning a short piece that attempts to debunk both the moral and practical issues surrounding the organ trade.

On the practical front, he states that The Economist has written that the worst-case-scenario view of the world’s poor selling their organs for money is a myth. However, he doesn’t cite the article and thus I can’t verify the proof. Nonetheless, that scenario sounds slightly sensationalist. His other practical defense is monetary related – Medicare spends over $21 billion in 2005 on dialysis. Organ sale will reduce that cost, likely significantly.

I do like his defense on the moral front though: that moral disgust for the commercial sale of organs should not be able to trump the moral disgust at enforcing a system that allows people to needlessly die. The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 prevents the sale of organs – ensuring that there will be a shortage of them and that thousands each year will die because of it.

I absolutely loved the coup de gras of it all: Iran is the only nation where organs are traded freely (since 1988). That nation has no waiting list for kidney transplants and citizens need not go abroad to get them.

Bottom line: One certainly cannot dismiss offhand the prospect of allowing organs to be bought and sold on the open market.


One thought on “Free Market for Organs?

  1. As the death toll from the organ shortage mounts, public opinion will eventually support an organ market. Only then will changes in public policy will follow.

    In the mean time, there is an already-legal way to put a big dent in the organ shortage — allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. UNOS, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

    Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don’t have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Non-donors should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

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