The Pope doesn't want you to be able to sell your kidney

The Pope - all-knowing and all-wise, and as his followers expect from him, the authority on all topics remotely having to do with ethics - spoke about organ donation:
"Any logic of buying and selling of organs, or the adoption of discriminatory or utilitarian criteria ... is morally unacceptable," he stressed.
To translate: the Pope would rather see a million people die, than have another million people voluntarily sell their spare kidney.

Because, you see, not being able to sell your kidney is much more important than saving a million people from dying.

According to the Pope, apparently, selling your kidney is an abomination. But a million people dying, prevented by people like the Pope from getting the kidneys that they desperately need, that's just "unfortunate".

Death, you see, is the natural course of things. You must accept it. If your kidneys are about to fail, surely God sees fit that you die now. It is God's will.

Could it be God's will then, pretty please, that the Pope die soon, and be replaced by someone more illuminated?

Yeah... as if that's likely. Ever.

To be fair, the Catholic Church is one of the less preposterously dark-ageist cults that this world has. See this for an example of yet more "enlightened" "leaders".

Comments

boris_kolar said…
I agree with pope on this one. Three reasons:
1. those who sell kidney usually do that when they are in extreme trouble, so it is arguable if their choice can be considered free
2. taking kidneys from the dead will provide more than sufficient supply
3. it's possible to live without both kidneys, although life like that must be tough
denis bider said…
1. How does removing a choice make people more free?

2. How much use is a 70-year old's kidney?

3. Substitute another organ then.

As I wrote on Katja Grace's blog, the problem people perceive is not the organ sale as such. Instead, one is scared that another person, who has different values, will sell an organ for less than one would oneself.

You would sell your kidney too, if Bill Gates offered you 10% of his net worth for it. You just don't approve that someone else might sell it for an amount that you think is ridiculous.

In essence, this is a question of tolerance - do we, or do we not, allow people to value themselves differently than we value ourselves? To deny people the ability to sell their kidneys is the height of arrogance. The thinking goes: I wouldn't sell my kidney for that amount; but you are willing to; so therefore you are obviously inferior to me, as you value your life less; so therefore you should listen to me, and value your life more. That is ridiculous.

People should be able to sell their kidneys.
verbatim said…
In essence, this is a question of tolerance - do we, or do we not, allow people to value themselves differently than we value ourselves?

Well put. This great thought can actually be extended to every aspect of our life.
boris_kolar said…
1. How does removing a choice make people more free?
It doesn't, really. However extracting a kidney from a perfectly healthy person for no reason at all (see bellow why) goes against Hippocratic Oath as well as common sense of morality.

2. How much use is a 70-year old's kidney?
Believe it or not, some people die much sooner.

3. Substitute another organ then.
Or Russian roulette? Why not allow people to risk their lives for money and provide entertainment for others. Would such business not be "morally unacceptable"?

You would sell your kidney too, if Bill Gates offered you 10% of his net worth for it.
No, I wouldn't (for any amount). In fact I would prefer not to have 1.5 billions. Luckily, I'm in no real danger of earning that much. I'm quite happy with life as it is now - a bit more money wouldn't hurt though.

To deny people the ability to sell their kidneys is the height of arrogance.
Not quite what I had in mind. The problem as I see it is allowing people to decide that organs from their loved can't be used if they die. Now that is arrogant - to let perfectly good kidney rot instead of using it to help someone. We don't have the slightest need for organ donations (of living people). Just as we don't have the slightest need for Russian roulette (movie effects can produce more than sufficient illusion of showing some head blown up).
denis bider said…
Boris: hmm, I see you've become a statist. Interesting.

Apparently you now think it's okay for a political majority to interfere in voluntary transactions they are not part of, if such transactions offend the majority's "morals".

By that token, it is okay for a majority to prevent you from smoking pot and having sex outside your marriage, because these things are "immoral".
denis bider said…
Incidentally, the pope would think that this is exactly the case. So if you agree with him on that too, then indeed the two of you are on the same wavelength. :-)
boris_kolar said…
On the contrary. I have no problem tolerating sex in public places, prostitution, unrestricted gambling, private currencies, child pornography (if no child is actually abused),... You can't get much more liberal than that.

Where I would draw the line is allowing people in trouble to be exploited. Like selling organs while there is no organ shortage (assuming dead bodies belong to the state), organizing Russian roulette or gladiator games, or otherwise convincing people to needlessly risk their lives. People in trouble do not have a free choice in the same way you and I have. I've met a young girl addicted to heroin and witnessed first hand how "free" her choices really were. She's much better now and is recovering quickly.

I would have no problem putting people, who value themselves so little, in jail or mental institution. The chronically homeless, heavy drug addicts, self mutilating or suicidal people all belong there. Exploiting them is neither moral nor necessary.
boris_kolar said…
In this specific case of kidney donation, there is a solution which would make the pope and a hardcore libertarian happy: allow extraction of kidneys from dead people, which would probably increase supply to extent that the value of kidney would be lower than cost of kidney extraction :D
denis bider said…
Boris: Now that is arrogant - to let perfectly good kidney rot instead of using it to help someone. We don't have the slightest need for organ donations (of living people).

I'm not convinced that this is actually the case.

This research for the U.S. concludes:

"Our data confirm previous estimates that the pool of brain-dead potential organ donors in the United States comprises between 10,500 and 13,800 patients per year."

There appear to be no more than this number of possible brain-dead donors in a year.

Meanwhile, data on OPTN.org (Data Reports, National Data, Category: Waiting List Removals, Organ: Kidney, Count: Candidates) indicate that some 11,000 candidates were removed from the list in 2007 because they received a kidney from a cadaver; some 5,000received one from a living donor; some 5,000 died in waiting; and some 4,000 were removed for reasons such as "other" an "too sick to transplant", which may also be a consequence of having been on the waiting list too long.

The waiting list for kidneys has grown by about 3,000 to 4,000 people per year, and currently contains about 78,000 candidates.

The study I quoted earlier indicates that about 54% of families, when asked, consent to a donation. What you appear to be proposing is to remove the need for family consent from the equation, increasing the number of actual donors by about 85%.

Ethics notwithstanding, this would not be sufficient to remove a need for living donor transplants. An 85% increase provides about 9,500 more kidneys from cadavers. This just about covers the number of people who die on the waiting list each year (5,000) and the number of people removed for 'too sick' or 'other reasons' (4,000), but not the number of people annually added to the list (3,000 - 4,000), nor the number of transplants that are already from living donors (5,000).

Even after removing the right of families to refuse donation, it appears that there would still be a shortfall of some 3,000 per year, which cannot be obtained from any other source other than somehow attracting more living donors.
denis bider said…
Boris: People in trouble do not have a free choice in the same way you and I have. I've met a young girl addicted to heroin and witnessed first hand how "free" her choices really were.

You are still proposing that the choices of people in trouble would be improved by artificially removing some of them.

I suppose your argument might be something like this. A person is in dire straits partly due to their attachment to habit X or person Y, which attachment they are desperate to maintain. The proper solution for this person would be to relinquish the attachment, which they can decide to do no matter what other options they have. But they do have other options, and those other options provide them with ways to prolong the desired attachment. Such options include working more, cutting back on other expenses, but then also begging, panhandling, theft, robbery, and now also organ donation.

You are basically proposing that a person in such a situation should not be able to choose organ donation, because this would then provide one more way for them to prolong their attachment to habit X or person Y.

Is that not social engineering?

You are basically proposing that:

(1) You know who the type of person is who's going to volunteer their kidney. Questionable to begin with. What do you know who will volunteer? It seems unlikely that a crackhead would be more likely to volunteer instead of stealing something or engaging in prostitution. It's also questionable whether a crackhead's kidney or liver is suitable for transplant in the first place.

(2) You are proposing that you can make choices for adult people better than they can themselves. Who else are you going to make choices for, then? If you are willing to pre-emptively outlaw someone from being able to sell their kidney, before you even know who they are and why they're doing it, what other ridiculous law are you willing to pass simply on the basis of your prejudice?
denis bider said…
BTW, so you'd be willing to prevent me from selling my kidney or a piece of my liver to Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, if he offered me $10 billion for it?

If you think that would be kind of okay, then basically you're saying that some adults are capable of deciding for themselves, while others aren't. Effectively you're calling for some kind of super-adult status whereby people considered super-adults can make decisions such as to sell their kidneys, but people considered merely adults can't.

Now, if you were actually trying to make the case for a super-adult category, perhaps there might be something there that we might agree on. I might consider a case, for instance, where super-adults would be granted voting rights, but merely adults wouldn't.

On the other hand, if you considered yourself right to prevent me from selling a part of my liver or kidney for $10 billion, then I'd consider that a personal affront to my liberty. If I were able to identify a single person such as yourself as the cause I was not able to exercise such liberty, I would consider myself right to exact a proportional toll on you. It would probably cost you all your appendages from the neck down.
boris_kolar said…
No, I would certainly not want to prevent well argued choice. I guess parallels can be made to euthanasia. Obviously, granting euthanasia because someone lost a girl is crazy (which, if I remember correctly, was requested by someone in Netherlands). Also, there are many well justified requests for euthanasia. I don't believe in some "super-adult" status. I do believe that law should have room for exceptions and this is certainly one case that would be best decided on case-by-case basis.
verbatim said…
BTW, so you'd be willing to prevent me from selling my kidney or a piece of my liver to Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, if he offered me $10 billion for it?

I am interested if you will sell it for so much money. I know I would. :)

Obviously, granting euthanasia because someone lost a girl is crazy (which, if I remember correctly, was requested by someone in Netherlands).

I believe that is legal in Switzerland from 1937. If you want to kill yourself you just go to a doctor. He must talk with you and if you don't change your mind he will write you a prescription for deadly drugs.

On the contrary. I have no problem tolerating child pornography (if no child is actually abused),...

Slovenian new law go even further. If you take a pencil and draw an image of child on the paper having sex you are making a crime and they will put you on the list of child molesters and put you in prison. I didn't know a paper can be abused...

It doesn't, really. However extracting a kidney from a perfectly healthy person for no reason at all (see bellow why) goes against Hippocratic Oath as well as common sense of morality.

If we are talking about victimless crimes then I think generalized morality cannot be defined.
denis bider said…
Boris: I don't believe in some "super-adult" status. I do believe that law should have room for exceptions and this is certainly one case that would be best decided on case-by-case basis.

But if the law has exceptions, then:

(i) the exceptions either have to be written into the law - which is inflexible, complex, and guaranteed to leave things out;

(ii) some authority has to decide on exceptions, e.g. the justice system - which is fairly likely to take a long time, causing suffering or death for the recipient, and discouraging even donors that are qualified.

What other mechanism is left for these 'exceptions'?

An ethics panel at the hospital conducting the transplant?

What are their criteria going to be? Whether the seller can make a well-argued case?

Suppose you're sitting on committee and people come in front of you pleading to be able to sell their kidney. In what circumstances would you vote no?

For what it's worth, I think legalizing organ transactions if they are authorized by an efficient ethics committee would still be much better than the situation now, when it's simply non-doable.

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