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Surprising Science

Legalize Organ Sales to Save Lives

Why are organ sales illegal? Donors of blood, semen, and eggs, and volunteers for medical trials, are often compensated. Why not apply the same principle to organs?

What’s the Latest Development?


The nation’s first-ever case of illegal organ sales was prosecuted last month in New York when Levy Izhak Rosenbaum was convicted of facilitating illegal kidney transplants. His lawyers argued that breaking the law benefited society: ‘The transplants were successful and the donors and recipients are now leading full and healthy lives.’ Those who donate blood, semen and eggs already receive financial compensation, so why shouldn’t the same principle apply to organ donation? 

What’s the Big Idea?

The World Health Organization estimates that 20 percent of kidney transplants are illegal, some being exploitative, others not. But perhaps the negative qualities of an underground organ trade come from it being illegal. “Enabling a process by which consenting people engage in open transactions would mitigate the exploitation of innocent citizens and underhanded dealing by those seeking to skirt the law,” says Anthony Gregory of the Independent Institute.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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