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Why Can't I Buy That?

May 11, 2015

 

One of the articles we didn’t get around to covering this week is about a lab in Massachusetts that will pay people to donate their poop. Fecal samples are the main source of needed probiotic gut bacteria and by amassing a large quantity of different types of this bacteria, scientists are able to help patients whose own gut biome has been wiped out by antibiotics.

While this topic is ripe for both an interesting biological discussion and slow-pitch poop jokes, it’s also a good lead in to another question in medical science. Why can’t we sell our body parts?

We can currently sell our blood, semen, eggs, and, apparently, poop. However essentially every nation except Iran forbids the sale of organs on the open market. While the sentiment seems noble: to keep the rich from biologically exploiting the poor, the effect is a dramatically underserved market. The waitlist for a kidney transplant in the US is in the 70,000 range. Couldn’t we knock that in half tomorrow if we let people sell their kidneys on eBay?

I don’t like the idea of farming humans any more than the next guy but we certainly have no qualms about exploiting peoples’ labor or time, so why is one’s physical body any different? We can sell body fluids but somehow not body parts? Seems like an odd distinction to make.

Let’s face it, for most of us putting a sticker on our driver’s license is as far as we’re willing to go for free. Why not incentivize that person who has two healthy kidneys to donate one…no, be honest about it, to sell one to another person who needs it? I’d rather have the opportunity to make that organ-selling decision than to have someone else make it for me. I’d probably feel even more strongly about it if I was the potential buyer.

Heads up to any entrepreneurial young governments out there: if you’d like a huge amount of medical tourism to your country while boosting local resident incomes dramatically, consider legalizing human organ sales. From kidneys to well-endowed men’s favorite organ, there’s a need and a market and I’m tired of only getting paid for poop and semen.

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