General Question

Rarebear's avatar

Should people or their families be paid for donated organs?

Asked by Rarebear (25154points) October 1st, 2010

This is not an easy cut and dried issue. At the moment, law prohibits this in most countries (I believe Iran is the only country that allows payment). There is an obvious ethical dilemma with this—let’s say you have a dying relative, and someone is offering your family 10,000 for their kidney, would you be more likely to allow them to die?

But organs are at critically short supply, and people die every year because they can’t get an organ donor match. When an organ transplant is done, everybody is getting paid—the surgeon, hospital, anesthesiologist, etc., but NOT the family who donated the organ. All they get is the satisfaction that they helped someone and maybe a nice greeting card.

What do you all think? Is it cut and dried in your mind?

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46 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I, for now, will remain steadfastly in the ‘no’ camp on this one – the deeply entrenched economic disparity will certainly play a role and those who are poorer will end up in situations where they’re affected more adversely, because of this.

snowberry's avatar

Absolutely people would be financially motivated! Folks in Saudi Arabia are killed just to get their organs, and life is even cheaper in Iran. Try reading Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. Here’s the link to Amazon:

I have heard similar horror stories in India and other third world countries.

As for the rest of the world, many many people are motivated by money. And for those people with few moral principles, the black/white line gets very fuzzy indeed.

poisonedantidote's avatar

No, to prevent the black market dealing in organs. also, im not exactly ok with the entire organ donor thing in the first place. you had your own organ already, and if it fails its just bad luck or that you abused it. dont expect a new one, chances are you wont get one. if you do get one, cool, good for you.

I would not want to see us turn in to a race of vidiian like creatures, doing all we can to get our hands on replacement organs, just accept your time is up.

yes, it can be very sad, say some little boy has a disease that gives him heart problems when he is 4 or 5 years old. it would be nice for him and the family if he can get a replacement. but what if he lives to reproduce and to pass on his disease to his own kids, then we need another heart, and another, and another. if we can make organs from scratch in the lab, that would be better. but in quite a few cases, it would probably be better just to let nature do its thing.

personally, when i die my organs will be donated. but im only just over the line between donating or not donating.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

No.My family would’ve bumped me off already as I am an organ donor ;)

phaedryx's avatar

I think money-for-organs is a bad idea. Perhaps relatives could get some other benefit, though. What about giving organ donation preference to relatives of people who have donated organs?

Cruiser's avatar

I just absolutely LOVE the story I read recently about the 4-way donor exchange involving 8 people 4 who needed kidneys and all 4 were incompatible with their willing and living donors but were matched with 4 other people who needed kidneys who had their own incompatible donors…just an absolutely WOW!

Best part nobody got PAID, they did it because they cared!! Yay for them!!

Jeruba's avatar

Sell pieces of my relatives’ bodies? or my own? Absolutely not, never.

>organs are at critically short supply

This presumes that there should even be a supply, that there’s some sort of right to expect organs to be available on demand. The idea is outrageous to me. If an organ exists at a time of need, that is a great blessing, but the dead are not a supermarket for the living.

weeveeship's avatar

We just discussed this not too long ago in law school.

We did not think it would be good to allow people to sell organs. If we allow people or their families to be paid for donated organs, then we could have macabre situations where people let their family members die in order to collect money. That is very poor public policy. Not to mention that you could have cases that are downright criminal (guy kills his brother to sell his brother’s kidneys or something). It’s downright gross.

The counter to this would be that it is a slippery slope argument. That is not really justified. First of all, we already have an system in place where one can benefit from the death of a family member. It is called life insurance. There are cases where people use foul play to collect on their family member’s life insurance. Certainly, allowing people to collect money for organs from deceased family members would have a similar incentive.

Another reason why calling the initial argument a slippery slope argument would be that there would in fact be no bright line threshold between “acceptable” or “unacceptable” ways to collect money for organs (and that is common from a moral and ethical standpoint). Even if we do not allow people to use foul play to collect money, there would be gray areas like convincing an ill family member not to go for a treatment, knowing they would die from it. Is that illegal? Perhaps. But it is hard to prove oral statements or mindset. Also, the family member did ultimately make the decision not to go for the treatment and unless the persuader is holding a gun to the other person’s head, it is hard to prove undue pressure.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Families don’t “own” either the deceased person, nor their organs. The family has no “skin” in the game; the doctors and hospitals are compensated because they own the components or the process by which the organ is removed from one body and implanted in another.

You would be entitled to compensation if organ transplant was a DIY project.

kheredia's avatar

I can see how this can create problems but a small donation to the family for funeral services would be nice. After all, the donor is giving somebody else the possibility of a long, happy life. That’s probably the best gift anybody can give.

Rarebear's avatar

@BarnacleBill Do you own your own organ? Let’s say you wanted to donate a kidney. Do you own that kidney?

Rarebear's avatar

@snowberry and @Jeruba Let’s say that there were stringent, enforcable laws governing the practice with heavy penalties for misuse that would effectively disuade people from malfeasance. Would you still be opposed to it?

marinelife's avatar

Organ sales are a slippery slope that in the end put the impoverished at an impossible dilemma. They also lead to black market organ sales and could lead to harvesting organs from live, unwilling donors.

I think it is pretty cut-and-dried. I am opposed.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t know how it would work. I don’t know how to resolve the potential and likely ethical dilemmas. I don’t know how not to quantify “the worth of a person” versus “the worth of their parts”. But I do know that I favor free markets in everything that is legal—and many things that are currently illegal and unlikely to be legalized soon, including drugs, sex, gambling and other “illicit” activities—so I’d want to explore how this ‘market’ could also be opened somehow.

I am unalterably opposed to central planning, “board” decisions about who lives and who dies because of a critical short supply of organs that would be made available, and the fact that everyone else profits from the current system… except the donor family. (And we do have to face the fact that it’s usually a donor “family” that would profit, because most of our important organs are one-to-a-customer and you pretty much need it for life, yourself.)

Since kidneys are an exception to that general rule, I’d like to start with some kind of “open market” in kidneys, because in that particular case living donors could make their own decisions and still live with the consequences—and benefits. Of course, I’m aware of more ethical problems: informed consent, for one, freedom from force and fraud for another, the disparity between rich beneficiaries of organ supply and poor “donors”. But I think our current system could hardly be made worse than it is, and a sole reliance upon altruism is… stupid, given what we know (or at least should know, by now) about human nature and free markets.

Free markets have made us the richest country on Earth—and are making the rest of the world more prosperous than “board decisions” and “central planning” ever could, would, or did. There’s no reason they couldn’t continue to benefit us in this way, if the infrastructure could be set up to enable it.

Rarebear's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Nice, reasoned argument.

GingerMinx's avatar

If they are being paid then they are not donating their organs but selling them.

Rarebear's avatar

@GingerMinx Fair enough. So should people be allowed to sell them? Say a kidney?

Jeruba's avatar

@Rarebear, I don’t believe any such legal guarantees would work; people with the means and motivation can find a way around anything. But let’s say they did. If the question behind the question is “Where do you draw the the line?” let me try to answer it this way.

I would not want a monetary consideration of any kind to have any part whatsoever in a decision that I might have to make, on my own behalf or someone else’s, concerning donating an organ to someone who needed it. I am far too corruptible and impure a human being ever to be wholly certain that the financial aspect had absolutely no effect on my decision—either way: swaying me to agree to the donation or forcing me to refuse in order to resist being swayed. And if I thought money did enter into the decision, I would never be at peace with myself over it.

However, if the organ donation had already been made, was over and in the past, with no thought of any financial return, and then the recipient’s grateful family came and insisted on thanking me in some material way, it’s possible that I might accept. I still think I would not, but much might depend on what they offered and how, and in what condition I found myself. So in honesty I can’t rule it out.

Rarebear's avatar

@Jeruba That’s a well thought out and reasoned answer, thanks.

I’m of two minds on the issue. I completely understand the ethical issues involved. However, I’ve seen many people die for lack of a matched organ. In any case, this has been an interesting discussion.

augustlan's avatar

I like both of the ideas presented by @phaedryx and @kheredia. Some kind of incentive would be great, and encourage more people to donate. But outright payment or profit? No. For reasons everyone has already mentioned.

mattbrowne's avatar

Could the reception of awards for the families be an alternative to payments?

Here’s a recent example of parents of a killed Palestinian boy donating his organs to sick Israeli children. Maybe you heard about it in the news:

“The committee of the Hessian Peace Prize awarded the 2010 Hessian Peace Prize to the Palestinian Ismail Khatib on 22nd September 2010. The laudation was given by the former Israeli embassador to Germany, Avi Primor.”

“Yoni Jesner and Ahmed Khatib were, respectively, a Jewish teenager and a Palestinian boy, whose organs were donated to children from the opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after their violent deaths. Yoni Jesner was killed in a Palestinian suicide bombing in 2002, while Ahmed Khatib was shot dead by IDF soldiers, who mistook a toy gun Ahmed was holding for a real one.”

marymaryquitecontrary's avatar

Some body “parts” can actually be sold. Women are allowed to sell their eggs, men their sperm. You can sell your blood and plasma to commercial enterprises. While there is potential for abuse, such as China killing prisoners just to harvest their organs for sale on the international market, the wanton murder-for-profit is the crime, not the fact that we’re talking about body parts. If I were in need of a kidney, and someone who needed the money and was not coerced in any way was offering one for sale, who would be worse off for that transaction? It’s nice to play the superior one and say “yadda yadda, people should just give up body parts for strangers out of the goodness of their hearts,” but I don’t see you or them lining up to do so. Nor do I see a robust and inexpensive health care system in the United States that will take good care of these people if they need additional care after giving up a kidney.

Rarebear's avatar

@marymaryquitecontrary That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about paying for eggs and sperm. Is there really a difference between getting paid for sperm and getting paid for a kidney?

Jeruba's avatar

You don’t need sperm to live.

Rarebear's avatar

@Jeruba You don’t need both kidneys to live, either.

Jeruba's avatar

Recipient doesn’t need sperm to live either. I think that’s a difference, since you asked for a difference: eggs and sperm are not vital organs.

Rarebear's avatar

@Jeruba So it’s okay to sell a part of yourself as long as it’s not a vital organ? What about blood?

haegenschlatt's avatar

Religious views aside, I find that it is perfectly fine for one to sell his/her organs if he/she is willing to. If he/she is in no position or mental/physical state to make that decision, the family, or anyone, has no right to force the person to do it.

And if they do agree to this, then they should be paid, or, if they agree to donation after their death, then yes, their family should be paid.

Jeruba's avatar

Don’t be silly, @Rarebear. You asked “Is there really a difference between getting paid for sperm and getting paid for a kidney?” I answered that I see a difference in that one is a vital organ and the other isn’t. Where did I say anything about thinking it’s okay to sell body parts?

Rarebear's avatar

@Jeruba Okay, then, well what about corneas? My point was that you can live without one kidney. And then my second point was that if it’s okay to sell sperm, is it okay to sell blood?

Look, I’m not trying to be difficult, but I’m making a point. There is an artificial ethical line that is drawn twhen it comes to donating things that come out of your body. Sperm is okay, blood is not. Eggs are okay, corneas are not.

Jeruba's avatar

I guess I’d ask the people who say it’s okay to sell sperm and eggs. I made no such assertion. Perhaps the question needs to be rephrased to address people who make that distinction.

GingerMinx's avatar

So long as it is a consenting adult who is aware of the consequences of their actions then I see no reason why they should not be able to sell parts of their body if they wish to.

Rarebear's avatar

@Jeruba So you see the artificial ethical line we have drawn as a society? The point I’m trying to make on this thread is that the issue isn’t quite a cut and dried as we initially think.

Jeruba's avatar

And I agree with you there, @Rarebear. But you are still presuming something. You are presuming what people think. I’ve noticed a lot of differences in people’s thinking. So I think you’ve confused the discussion by asking several questions (is it cut and dried? should people be paid? if this, then that?) that aren’t necessarily related in a single crisp formula.

Did you ask this question to learn something or to make a point?

Rarebear's avatar

@Jeruba I asked the question to be provocative and find out how people feel about the issue. I was curious how people felt about the issue. In terms of asking more questions, most of the questions I asked were to try to clarify for me people’s position.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Jabe73's avatar

I quote what you said before I make my remark here: *“This is not an easy cut and dried issue.”*Personally I would think of it as some sort of extra life insurance, maybe a little extra money my family could use if death was inevitable for me. Good question, it’s a sticky issue and many above made good points on the bad side of this but I guess that’s the way I personally would look at it if it was me personally dying. I trust my family at least.

Rarebear's avatar

@Jabe73 And it goes to the heart of the issue, do you own your organs? And if you do own your organs, why can’t you sell? And if you can sell, why can’t your family, being your beneficiary reap that benefit?

To be clear, I’m not entirely sure how I come down on the issue, but it’s fun for me to talk about because it’ll never happen in the US.

marymaryquitecontrary's avatar

@rarebear I don’t agree that it will never happen in the US. The Capitalist nation USA is probably the most likely place on earth for it to be legalized. Have you forgotten all the recent hubub about the young woman putting her virginity up for auction? Or the controversy when scientists were granted patents and rights to sell living cells from other people’s bodies?

Rarebear's avatar

@marymaryquitecontrary So let me guess, you would be opposed?

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
snowberry's avatar

I lost this question for a while. @Rarebear I am opposed and plan to remain so.

Regardless of how “safe” and law abiding it would start out, there would be a huge black market for body parts for sale. That’s under-the-table deals out of the sight of regulatory oversight. Poor people would die for the sake of those with the money and power. That’s the same as it is now, but with body parts for sale, it would be even more so.

Rarebear's avatar

I see your point. My concern is that everybody is making money off the transplant and everybody benefits except the donor. That’s what I’m a little uncomfortable with.

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