Waking Up to Organ Donation

There's an interesting trend story in the Washington Post about a new early-harvest technique with organ donors - called "donation after cardiac death," it basically means getting the organs as soon as possible, which in some cases means getting close to that vague line between life and death. A few things strike me here: First, implicit in the story - and in all organ transplant stories - is the incredible imbalance between those who need organs and the available supply of organs. Getting better sources and more efficient about supplying organs to those who need them can only be a good thing.

Second, it raises the issue - still verboten in many circles - about creating real, honest markets for organs. Present ethics of organ donation make selling organs impossible. But that only gives rise to black markets, favoritism, and other creepy stuff. Create real, legal opportunities for organ markets - with ample regulatory oversight - and we might better serve those who would otherwise die for want of an organ.

Last, we're only on the tip of the iceberg with these sorts of issues. As organ transplants become easier and more dependable, and as transportation systems make the rapid long-distance transport of organs more feasible, like it or not this is an emerging market that will be served (if I was an investor and amoral and you could invest in such things, I'd say it has all the makings for promsing longterm speculation). Better we face this sort of thing sooner rather than later.

Thomas Goetz1 Comment