From The Grio — A recent survey by Donate Life America states that the percentage of Americans willing to donate organs has risen over the past year (only 43 percent are undecided or opposed to it, compared to 50 percent last year), but this increased willingness still hasn’t kept pace with the need for donors. The morality of altruism – which expects that potential organ donors will voluntarily “do the right thing” for free, often for strangers – has its limits. That’s why more than 100,000 people in the U.S. are on waiting lists to receive organs, and 6,500 people die each year during their wait. Demand far outstrips supply, as only 20,000 organ transplants are done each year. This wouldn’t be the case if there was a shift away from altruistic organ donation and rationing, by getting rid of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 banning such financial incentives.
If we want to save lives, it is high time that we address the supply side via a free-market organ system. While African-Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, we make up 35 percent of the individuals on the national waiting list for kidney transplants. However, we are only 11 percent of organ donors. Since the success of transplant operations rise dramatically when organs are matched between people of the same ethnicity and race, the gap between blacks who need organs and blacks who contribute organs leads to black people waiting twice as long as white patients for organ transplants. The good news is that the Donate Life America survey also found that the percentage of African-Americans who wish to donate their organs and tissue has increased to 41 percent, compared to 31 percent in 2009. Public education campaigns are not significantly changing this organ landscape involving black organ contributors, and will not until there are financial incentives.
Several opposing arguments to a free-market organ system arise. Some individuals – usually liberals who claim to be “pro-choice” on body-related matters – are squeamish about other individuals choosing to provide an organ in return for compensation. They contend that organ sales shouldn’t be allowed for ethical reasons. However, if such individuals argue that the government shouldn’t be involved when a female chooses to terminate a pregnancy (and I concur) because of individual liberty and she owns her body, then consistency dictates that the same principles apply to individuals who wish to contribute their organs as they see fit.