Magen David Adom ambulances 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Selling organs is illegal in Israel, as in most countries. But Israel has been a
pioneer in the area of providing non-monetary benefits and official recognition
for organ donors. One progressive step taken recently was to define specific
criteria for priority in receiving organs for those who sign an organ donor card
(and immediate relatives). Normally, priority applies only after a waiting
period in order to discourage people from waiting until they see they might need
a donation themselves. But as a special incentive for prompt
participation, immediate priority was offered to those who signed up before the
end of the year. The response was so overwhelming that operators were
unable to register everyone who called, and now the deadline has been extended
an additional three months.
Payment for organs is one of the most
controversial issues in economic ethics issues. Many view this as a prima facie
ethical breach, akin to selling human beings; others view it as an severe
ethical problem that they are willing to countenance, if at all, only due to a
utilitarian consideration: the extreme need for organs on the part of
prospective recipients who are in true life-threatening danger.
position, as I have elaborated in a number of columns, is that, on the contrary,
giving donors fair recompense for their sacrifice is the a priori ethical
desideratum. While a principled opposition to any organ donation would be a
consistent ethical position, believing that organ donation is ethical and even
praiseworthy but denying donors any recompense for a very significant personal
risk and suffering is not a sustainable point of view.
the case of donations after death, the discussion turns out to be mostly
academic. We see from the response to the latest campaign that in-kind
non-monetary incentives can be successful in bringing about a large donation
rate, just as the insurance program for blood donors has been successful in
sustaining an adequate pool of blood donors.
However, in the case of
donations from the living, the case is different. Even though the
benefits Israel provides to kidney donors are pioneering and meaningful, they
are far from sufficient to provide organs for all the dialysis patients who need
them, and by the same token, far from providing adequate and ethical
compensation for those who donate.
Israel is to be congratulated on the
creative steps it has taken so far to encourage organ donation; let us hope that
further creative steps will be successful in motivating more people to make
life-saving organ donations before they die.