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The push is on to let hospitals harvest and sell organs from U.S. patients

Organ harvesting
(NaturalNews) There are at least 125,000 people waiting for an organ transplant right now in the US. Their names are filed on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network transplant list. An overwhelming majority of those waiting -- more than 100,000 -- are in need of a kidney transplant. Right now, they must either wait for a family member to donate a live kidney or wait for a cadaveric kidney, which is obtained from the accidental death of a young person. There are roughly only 5,700 live kidneys donated per year, leaving over 94,000 people desperate for a cadaveric kidney, which comes at the expense of someone's demise.

Academia petitions government to allow free-market organ harvesting

Prominent academics in the field know how desperate the situation really is and have recently signed an open letter to the president, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Attorney General Eric Holder and the leaders of Congress. The letter says, "We call for the swift initiation of evidence-based research on ways to offer benefits to organ donors in order to expand the availability of transplants."

In 1984, Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Al Gore sponsored the National Organ Transplantation Act, which effectively banned the free-market sale of organs. The measure passed into law, making it illegal for hospitals to "acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer" organs from one person to another for "valuable consideration." The law blocked cash payments for buying and selling organs.

Now there is a new push to repeal that law and open up a free market for harvesting and selling organs. Kidneys, being the most sought-after organ and the easiest transplant to execute, could be the first organ to be allowed on a voluntary market. Live kidneys, donated from family members, may be donated in less-than-ideal condition. In a free market, healthier volunteers could sell healthier kidneys to those in need. Those waiting wouldn't have to wish for accidental deaths, and many times these cadaveric kidneys are in poor condition due to the time of death. By the time relatives decide on kidney transplantation, the organ could be in poor condition. An open market would make healthy kidneys more available on demand.

Low-risk operations promise great benefit for both donor and recipient

The good news for the donor is that the risk of severe complication is low and is shown to occur every 3 cases per 10,000. On the receiving end, the benefit is extraordinary; receiving a live kidney typically adds 15 to 20 years to a person's life. The real question is: Who would line up to have their organs harvested and how much compensation would be enough to satisfy their discomfort and loss of work time? What would the cost of a kidney go for in an open market? The letter detailed in-kind compensation for donors, compensating them for lifelong health expenses, funeral expenses and potential disability insurance. The plan even said that donors could potentially be supplemented by "a pension contribution, tax credit, or charitable contribution."

Organ real estate agent could be used as a broker between donor and recipient

The open letter to the federal government also wanted to ensure equality and said that "private transactions between individuals should remain prohibited." According to the letter, the push to sell organs from US patients would be administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit organization. How well would a program like this be executed, with UNOS acting as an intermediary between patients and donors? Would there be brokers available to act fairly on behalf of both buyers and sellers, as there are in real estate? Perhaps both donor and recipient would enjoy full legal protections in a system like this, in case there was a misrepresentation or mistake in the transfer.

Would these brokers actively seek and recruit people with healthy organs?

Would the richest recipients get the best organs first, leaving the poor on the back of the waiting list? Important questions remain in the push for free-for-all organ harvesting, buying and selling.

Sources for this article include:

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