The economics of human organs as ‘spare parts’

“… consider the idea of establishing a market for human organs. For example, the buying and selling of kidneys is currently illegal in the United States and United Kingdom. But demand for kidneys outstrips the supply of kidneys. More people want transplants than can be provided. To bring supply and demand into balance, some economists have called for the establishment of a market for kidneys. Since the supply is less than the demand, a higher price would encourage more donors to come forward and increase supply, and since some individuals would find the price beyond their means, it would also decrease demand. The imbalance between demand and supply would be resolved. But many people might find this solution objectionable, and Sandel’s two objections explain why. On the one hand, in thinking of the human body as simply a store of ‘spare parts’, we might corrupt what many take to be its unique moral character. The human body ought to be inviolable, and not freely cut up for cash. This is the Corruption Objection. Second, there is the fear that those who do sell their kidneys may not have a meaningful choice in their decision-making. Those who are poorer may be more inclined to put their kidneys up for sale. In exercising choice over whether to sell their kidneys, people may not be on an equal footing. This is the Inequality Objection.”

Susskind, Richard; Susskind, Daniel. The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts (pp. 241-242). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition. The case of human organs and the two objections is set out in Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy, 110.

Chris

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