Sunday, February 08, 2004

Organ Donation

First let me clear up a few issues from class:

It looks like women can be compensated for donating eggs, above and beyond compensating them for their time. Details here:

It also looks like organ donation by the dead does not require the donor's family to pay for the donation, the burden falls on the recipient or the recipient's insurer. See myth #5 in this post and part (b) below.

Otherwise the applicable laws can be divided into those that cover donations from dead and those that cover donations from the living. First lets start with the dead. That is covered by The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (as amended in 1987) which was adopted by most states as we see it here:


(a) A person may not knowingly, for valuable consideration, purchase or sell a part for transplantation or therapy, if removal of the part is intended to occur after the death of the decedent.

(b) Valuable consideration does not include reasonable payment for the removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transportation, or implantation of a part.

(c) A person who violates this section is guilty of a [felony] and upon conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding [$50,000] or imprisonment not exceeding [five] years, or both.


The report of the Task Force pursuant to the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act recommended that states pass laws prohibiting "the sale of organs from cadavers or living donors within their boundaries."

This section is not limited to donors. It applies to any person and to both purchases and sales for transplantation or therapy. It does not cover the sale by living donors if removal is intended to occur before death.

A major finding of the Hastings Center Report is:

"Altruism and a desire to benefit other members of the community are important moral reasons which motivate many to donate. Any perception on the part of the public that transplantation unfairly benefits those outside the community, those who are wealthy enough to afford transplantation, or that it is undertaken primarily with an eye toward profit rather than therapy will severely imperil the moral foundations, and thus the efficacy of the system."

(7) "Part" means an organ, tissue, eye, bone, artery, blood, fluid, or other portion of a human body.

So it is illegal to sell the eggs from a dead women, but not a living one. Does this make sense to anyone? Anyhow, there is clearly a shortage in useable parts, even if you don't think dead people should be allowed to sell theirs we clearly need to increase the supply somehow. From the The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (as amended in 1987).

A 1985 Gallup Poll commissioned by the American Council on Transplantation reported that 93 percent of Americans surveyed knew about organ transplantation and, of these, 75 percent approved of the concept of organ donation. Although a large majority approves of organ donation, only 27 percent indicate that they would be very likely to donate their own organs, and only 17 percent have actually completed donor cards. Of those who were very likely to donate, nearly half have not told family members of their wish, even though family permission is usually requested before an organ is removed. (Report of the Task Force on Organ Transplantation pursuant to the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act - P.L. 98-507 - "Organ Transplantation: Issues and Recommendations" (April 1986)).

At the minimum we should all sign our donor cards and support a change in the default to automatically make everyone a donor unless they opt out.

Now turning to donations from the living. That is largely covered by the federal law. Of interest is Title 3 section 301 of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984

It prohibits the sale of organs for valuable consideration, where "organ" is defined as the kidney, liver, heart, lung pancreas, bone marrow, cornea, eye, bone and skin. Although valuable consideration does not include the expenses of the donor, which can include lost wages.

It clearly does not ban selling sperm, which is why we are a large exporter. See this link from marginal revolution.

Although maybe sales of organs from living individuals could be troublesome, see "organs for sale" here. Finally there is a nice web page maintained by southwestern publishing on the issue here.

Update: It looks like Affirmative Action may strike the lists of eager potential organ recipients.

Keywords: ECO120, Organ Donation