Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Market for Human Organs

So Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, had a liver transplant -- see story here.

Interestingly, he had it in Tennessee, not the state that first comes to mind when speaking of the forefront of medicine.

But if your criteria is length of time to wait on the liver transplant list, Tennessee comes up with the shortest wait.

Interesting. Someone with enough money can relocate to a different area, get on the local list, and get a needed transplant before someone with less wealth.

Is that wrong? Should Steve Jobs be on the same timetable as everyone else?

Why do we accept wealth as enabling people to get an advantage in so many things, even many that are life-preserving (a new Mercedes is certainly safer than a used Chevy), but when it comes to things like organ transplants we balk?

Would it be OK if Mr. Jobs could offer cash to a live donor to spare half of their liver (all that is generally needed for a "live" liver transplant)? Is that OK if that person would never have considered donating part of their liver if not for the money? Is it not obvious that offering cash for livers would dramatically increase the supply? Aren't we really interested in saving lives, after all?

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