Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Selling Human Organs - I Don't Understand

Today in Isaan, during the Andserson Cooper 360 segment on CNN International, there was a story about trafficking in human organs - specifically kidneys.

In the report it was stated that it is believed that up to 10% of the kidney transplants in the world come from the illegal sale of kidneys. These kidneys rather than coming from a genuine donor actually are procured from people for around $10,000 U. S. dollars. These purchased kidneys are then brokered for up to $100,000 U. S. dollars to patients who need a transplant to survive.

A big part of the story dealt with an alleged ring in New York, where Jewish people were buying kidneys from poor Jews out of Eastern Europe for transplantation into Jews in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.

I am opposed to harvesting organs from executed people or from people who have not signed a proper organ donor card. However I am confused in regards to the illegality of willingly selling one or a piece of one of your organs in the United States.

A couple of the justifications regarding the Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade 1973 that ruled abortion was a fundamental right under the United States Constitution were the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and the right to privacy.

So how is that it is legal to have an abortion which ends up ending a life but it is illegal to sell one of your organs which will end up saving a life?

Do not the same arguments that the Supreme Court used to define a woman's abortion rights not apply to anyone's rights regarding their decision to sell a part of their body?

If a woman's body is her own personal property and she is free to make her own decisions regarding the use of her body, is it not also true that our, men and women, body is our personal property and we, men and women, are free to make our own decisions regarding the use of our body even if it entails willingly selling parts of it?

The Supreme Court has found support for right to and of "privacy" in the Bill of Rights as well as the 14th Amendment to the Constitution although the right or freedom to "privacy" is not specifically stated or written in the Constitution.

I strongly believe in this "right" and "freedom" which along with the Freedom of Speech is so frequently attacked and compromised. However, I do not understand how privacy and the "freedom of contract" can be used to allow abortions and not used to allow for the selling of one's organs.

In selling of one's organs, assuming that it is fully informed and consensual, no one's rights or freedoms are abridged or violated. The most likely result of this private contract and transaction between the donor and recipient or broker is the saving of a life. We are all brought up to believe that saving a human life is a good thing. The world's major religions all support the concept of helping our fellow man as well as saving a human life.

So why is selling one of your organs illegal - other than that is what the law says now?

I don't understand.

Is it because selling organs is not politically correct - yet?

Is it because it is not part of a major political party's agenda or strategy?

Is it because the basis for defining abortion rights is fundamentally flawed and therefore can not be used to define the right to sell your body parts?

I don't understand.


  1. Howdy,

    I think the U.S. law against selling organs has to do with unscrupulous harvesting from unwilling or unknowing patients. Spurred on by possible profits the law makers have become convinced that they have the obligation to protect the citizenry, especially the in-firmed and incapacitated.

    And, me wonders the question... why would you think the U.S. laws would "make sense"? They are promulgated by special interests for profit motives, not humanitarian or benefit of the citizen.

  2. Bruce:

    I believe that you are right. I consider myself to be a "rugged individualist" which may explain why I now live in Thailand. However as much as I cherish and appreciate my individuality, I recognize that I have a certain obligation to "fit in" with society. I especially recognize and accept that society in general has no obligation to change and adapt to please me because I have an issue with the majority. At the same time I expect society to be tolerant of my individuality. It used to work well in the past. I am not so certain that it does now.

    You point out a situation where once again the majority suffers because of a small minority. Some small number of people may do something wrong so the law is written to restrict everyone.

    I agree with your take on laws and special interests groups - it bothers me that we have full time legislators with little to do but write new laws and spend money they don't have - just about all year long.