Legalize Organ Sales

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum faces severe penalties for his involvement in “what experts said was the first ever proven case of black-market organ trafficking in the United States.” He pled guilty. His lawyers said in a statement:

The transplants were successful and the donors and recipients are now leading full and healthy lives. In fact, because of the transplants and for the first time in many years, the recipients are no longer burdened by the medical and substantial health dangers associated with dialysis and kidney failure.

Indeed, the idea of organ sales sounds gruesome to most people, but it shouldn’t. With so many other health services conducted on the market (however encumbered by crippling regulations), what is wrong with consenting donors selling organs, especially upon death? As Alexander Tabarrok has argued, even a little bit of market incentive can go a long way in combating the terrible problem of organ shortages. “Iran has eliminated waiting lists for kidneys entirely by paying its citizens to donate,” he notes.

Yet a free market in organ sales would be even better. Sure, there should be safeguards to ensure that no one was being intimidated or defrauded, since the stakes would be very high. And these safeguards would surely be there in an open market, since no one wants to see this kind of business done in their community, unless it’s totally on the up and up. There is no reason not to allow people to make a little money in this practice, and there are many thousands of reasons to do so—the thousands of people who die waiting for organs in the United States every year. It is a monstrous problem, and one that could easily be solved nearly instantly simply by allowing the free market to work. Once again, humanitarianism is best served by liberty, and yet we are deprived both, with horrible consequences, just to maintain the pretense of state-enforced propriety.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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