In this post, however, I want to focus on the other people whose lives are implicated in the kidney story: the wealthy organ recipients. In a story of rich people raiding poor people for their organs, of course, the rich do not tug on our heart strings. It is often largely through the accident of birth that one is able to acquire wealth, and in any event, wealth does not entitle people to pressure or coerce the poor to supply them with organs.
If poverty and wealth are often unearned, however, it is no less true that good and ill health are often unearned. It is not self-evident that people who happen to be born with a kidney defect and/or become ill in adulthood have no right to ask the surrounding society for help. It is out of desperation, indeed the same sort of desperation that might motivate a poor but healthy man to sell one of his kidneys, that wealthy but sick people attempt to use their money to save their own lives. Though hardly praiseworthy, one can easily understand why they do what they do.
One could, in fact, invoke such desperation as evidence that organ sale ought to be permitted but regulated. The law of supply and demand is stronger than the criminal law, and it therefore makes sense for the law to minimize abuse within an inevitable business rather than drive it underground. Such was said (correctly) of alcohol prohibition, and Judge Posner has made this sort of argument in a variety of contexts (including, quite controversially, in condoning a market in babies).
Rather than criticize or defend such arguments, however, I would point out a simple but sad reality in the
This proposal of the ultimate “death tax” probably sounds shocking to many, so let me suggest that a less radical idea could go a long way. At the present time, in the
Posted by Sherry Colb