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Offshore Organdonor Hospital Ship

The Free Market on Free Waters
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(+7, -10)
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As of February 8, 2002, 79,406 people were waiting for desperately needed organs--hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, pancreas' and intestines. Almost 75% of them will not receive them. About 16 of them die every day. Terrible statistics, but the real tragedy is that many of these deaths, and the terrible desperation suffered by many who are waiting, could be avoided.

The cause of the problem, or rather, the reason behind its scale, is quite simply a lack of Capitalism. In America, it is illegal for people to buy and sell organs for transplant.

The best solution, I think, is not to change the law (who knows how long that will take, or if it can be done?), but to circumvent it.

In the same way that a proposed "Floating Abortion Clinic" was supposed to operate in the waters off of Ireland some months ago, a group of entrepreneurs ought to set up an organ transplant ship anchored outside US territorial waters. However, unlike the "humanitarian" mission of the abortion ship, the transplant ship would be a for-profit endeavor, making it far more likely to succeed.

Here's how I see this working.

Healthy people could voluntarily submit tissue samples for analysis. The results of those analyses are then archived in a database, along with contact information for the potential donor.

Sick people would then submit their own tissue samples in hopes that they might find a match in the database. If a match is found, the potential donor is contacted and negotiates a price for the desired organ. If multiple matches are found, then the potential donors might even bid each other down.

Once a deal is struck, both parties are flown by helicopter (or taken by boat) to the offshore hospital. The procedures are performed, and both patients recover onboard the ship, with physical therapy that includes massages, tanning and shuffleboard in a tropical setting.

And before anyone gets all indignant about this being available "only to the rich", let me point out that simply having money does not make one more deserving of a slow, painful death. Furthermore, by removing the wealthy from the legal organ transplant waiting list, those who can't afford to buy organs will at least have a greater chance of receiving them through the current system. And finally, it is quite likely that the offshore ship would perform transplants for charity cases, for public relations reasons.

Guncrazy, Feb 25 2002

stana http://www.jvstana@yahoo.com
jvstana@yahoo.com [jvstana, Aug 24 2002]


       Unethical. Fishbone. This is tantamount to selling yourself into slavery. It violates everyone's constitutional rights. You can't do whatever you want with your body ( although I am in favor of legalized prostitution ).
Sulla 's Ghost, Feb 25 2002

       All-in-all, wouldn't it be easier to petition for presumed consent laws? I still don't understand why they don't exist (at least in the U.S.).   

       ([Sulla 's Ghost] spooked in before I could save. I don't agree that the idea is unethical because:
1) As [Guncrazy] points out, why deny the rich because they're rich?
2) An unrich person or persons could probably work out some sort of trade.

       I still like presumed consent better. It doesn't require placing a price tag on organs or human life.)
phoenix, Feb 25 2002

       People sell their hair, and that's ok. When you really think about it, there's nothing unethical about selling organs, as long as you consent. If it causes you to die, that might be different, but otherwise why not? After all, hospitals have no problem charging you for donated blood or organs.   

       And it's not like slavery, either. Slaves don't give consent. Slaves don't get paid.
lumpy, Feb 25 2002

       SELLING yourself into slavery
Sulla 's Ghost, Feb 25 2002

       You mean like EMPLOYMENT?
lumpy, Feb 25 2002

       As much as I am any political party, I am Libertarian; however, I think I'm an odd version of it. All rights are property rights, beginning with absolute ownership of your own body. You should have the right to sell any portion of it you like, or rent in the case of prostitution.   

       Sulla, it is not slavery; it's more like prostitution than anything else, but not even that. Capitalism is based on the idea that A has something that B wants and is willing to pay for.
StarChaser, Feb 25 2002

       I'm sorry, but I completely fail to grasp the logic behind [Sulla's] objection. Are you saying that you're "SELLING yourself into slavery", because your kidney can't consent to filtering another person's blood? If, indeed, this is your meaning, wouldn't this be just as unethical as donating one's organs after death? After all, what's the difference to the slave whether he's given away, or sold (other than the possibility that a sold slave might take some small pride and comfort in a high sales price)?   

       Oh, and I'd really like to know how the Constitution enters into this discussion (?!).
Guncrazy, Feb 25 2002

       In Australia, you can only donate organs if two independant doctors, who are not involved in any way with transplanting, establish that you are brain dead, and you are in an intensive care unit of a hospital, when brain death is established. You must be a registered organ doner, and you family has ultimate power of veto.
QuadAlpha, Feb 26 2002

       That's not too far off from how it works in the U.S.. Oddly, even if I choose to donate my organs - and make my wishes known, my spouse can forbid their harvesting.
phoenix, Feb 26 2002

       I think that being on the high seas has other advantages besides the suspension of human rights; I mean, you roll double or nothing to get your kidney back?
reensure, Feb 26 2002

       Slightly off-topic black thought: If every day waiting recipients die purely from lack of donated organs, couldn't at least some of them be saved by harvesting those that die first for parts?
[Kidding aside, I'm a potential donor, at least if the little paper circle they give you to stick on your driver's license hasn't detached itself again and fled into a far crevice of my wallet. And you should be one, too.]
jutta, Feb 26 2002

       Since people like Guncrazy believe it's morally acceptable for the rich to eat the poor, might I present a practical problem? What about the healthcare cost implications for the tens of thousands of poor people who would in the future be going round with only one lung, one kidney and half a liver? Are they not going to be much more prone to illness, and much more likely to require organ donations themselves? But maybe if you pay them enough, they'll be able to *buy* replacements.
pottedstu, Feb 26 2002

       Better yet, make sure there are enough organs around that the cost of the organ itself is not prohibitive. The surgury might be expensive initially, but with more organs available there will be more organ transplants. When there are more organ transplants there will be more surgeons capable of performing them. When there are more surgeons capable of performing transplants the cost of the surgury will go down.
phoenix, Feb 26 2002

       [pottedstu]: My (foolish) hope was to open a debate on this without dragging class warfare into it.   

       Personally, I find your attitude quite condescending. What you're saying to potential donors is, "You don't deserve to save a life because you want compensation." Why don't you say this to doctors? What you're saying to those who need organs to live is, "You're not morally comptetent, and can't be trusted to help yourself. You must rely on random chance and the decisions of strangers for survival."   

       While such an attitude is fabulously PC, it's completely devoid of any real compassion, and more importantly, does nothing to save the suffering from imminent death.   

       As for your concern over the future well-being of donors, I do not know of any evidence that suggests that the donation of, say, one of your kidneys will make you more susceptible to kidney disease later in life. Of course, if you have evidence, I'd like to consider it; otherwise, this objection is merely a speculative red herring.   

       As far as the poor being able to purchase replacement organs in the future, well, why not? My optimistic scenario of a donor using his payment to start a successful business is just as valid as your pessimistic view that donors will blow their windfall on cheap booze, cigarettes and two chicks at once. And just as irrelevant.   

       The bottom line, and the point of this idea, is that I think this will save lives. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why. But isn't it arrogant god-playing to quibble over which lives "deserve" to be saved? Isn't it terribly callous to argue that one life shouldn't be saved, just because another life isn't? What possible good can come from legally mandating the equal distribution of misery?
Guncrazy, Feb 26 2002

       With respect, this debate could never have passed without the mention of 'class warfare'. Every time capitalism is mentioned, then class issues come along with it. Express class as you will - upper, middle, working or haves, have nots - but it is very closely linked to how much money you have.   

       My problem with this idea is its basic premise: a extra-jurisdictional floating hospital. The overheads for the set up and maintenance of this would be massive. In a capitalist (commerical) venture, costs must be passed onto the customer. Net result: high prices and a vastly reduced possible consumer base. The have-nots get shafted again.   

       Far better to spend this money on lobbying the government to change its policies on donation and use the existing, land-lubbing healthcare infrastructure.   

       And anyway, you'd have to moor the boat in calm seas to carry out the operations, which rules out, well, most of the sea.
calum, Feb 26 2002

       I'm going to try to *carefully* steer clear of any moral arguments here and point out what may be a couple of flaws in GunCrazy's idea.
1. Allowing people sell their organs will not solve the problem, though it might alleviate it somehow. A doctor friend of mine told me once that (in the UK at least) even if the government *required* people give up organs for donation on demand, there would still be a shortage. What is needed is GM animal organ farming, ugly though it may seem.
2. Having the operation in international waters is likely cause problems. Again the UK gov. has shown a willingness to extends laws to prevent this method of avoiding thier jurisdiction - as was seen in the case of the Killjoys (amazingly, their real name) and their attempt to adopt kids in the states. The basic upshot of that particular case is, if you want to buy kids for adoption over the internet, you have to do the buying outside the UK, make the adoption outside the UK and then will probably not be able to bring the kids back in to Britain. A different issues I know, but I would suggest this shows how this government reacts to unpopular international sourced loopholes in the law. I suspect, particularly when we have at least the concept of free healthcare in Britain (such that this private care would be more unpopular than it might be in the states) any implementation of this idea may fall foul of the same type of legislation.
3. Removing the wealthy from the organ pool is unlikely to dramatically increase the availability of organs. Bad health is synonymous with poverty, you are more likely to need the organ if you are poor. It will also probably remove the rich organs available to the poor - I could see organ donors including something in their will, donating organ selling rights to their dependents. The principles of the free market would say "Would you give them away free if there is money to be made?"
mcscotland, Feb 26 2002

       Essentially the cuase of the lack of organs is that less people are dieing of head injuries in car and motorbike accidents... which used to be the main source of donated organs.   

       Couldn't we just ban airbags and crash helmets?
CasaLoco, Feb 26 2002

       [calum]: Yes, the operational costs of such a venture would be high. Yes, those costs would have to be recovered by charging high prices for the services provided. However, your objection is not based on the feasibility of the project, but on the opinion that if the poor can't have it, the rich _shouldn't_ have it.   

       Interestingly, you say that the poor would get "shafted" by such a service. If they do not have access to this service now, what would it matter if they did not have access to it if it were to become available? Either way, they don't have access, and nobody has done anything to oppress them.   

       On the other hand, by denying people the right to barter for organs, the law is currently shafting the rich. Those who have the money could try to procure, by free and consensual trade, that which would save their lives, were it not for laws which irrationally prohibit them from doing so. Furthermore, these laws shaft the poor as well, as it prevents the formation of charitable organizations to make these operations available to the poor.   

       [mcscotland]: Perhaps the removal of the rich from the current organ recipient lists would not "dramatically" improve the chances of the poor to receive needed organs. Granted, though a free market for organs might relieve the shortage a bit, there will probably never be a sufficient supply to help everyone--not even all the rich.   

       However, I have heard so many times, in other arguments, the phrase, "If it saves just one life..." Why should this principle not be applied here?
Guncrazy, Feb 26 2002

       Guncrazy, I think we are disagreeing on a point of ideology. Yes, your idea (if actually feasible) *could* provide a valuable service to those rich enough to afford it. However, I still enough of a lefty-liberal to beleive that health care should be provided free of charge - for all - by the government.   

       "...your objection is not based on the feasibility of the project, but on the opinion that if the poor can't have it, the rich _shouldn't_ have it." You're damn right. Again, this is a point of ideology. If you agree that no one life is of more value than another, such an exclusive system is indefensible. If, on the other hand, that some lives *are* more valuable than others, then you do have a standpoint from which to argue for your proposal. However, as the system you propose is one that involves paying for a service, it appears that what you are saying is "some lives are more important than others, and it is the lives of the richest that are the most important." In many areas, my political and moral philosophy is coloured by an adherence to natural law. In matters of public policy, I believe in "the greatest good for the greatest many."   

       "Furthermore, these laws shaft the poor as well, as it prevents the formation of charitable organizations to make these operations available to the poor." Yes, which is why I suggest that you spend the money involved in setting up this venture on lobbying government to have the laws changed.   

       I have left my vote at neutral on this one for the simple reason that we can never agree on this particular point.   

       There, I've said my peice. I'll shut up now.
calum, Feb 27 2002

       [calum]: Are you enough of a lefty-liberal to accept that health-care paid for by all but not used by the rich is better for the poor than health-care paid for by all and used by all? In other words, the (notional) poor are better served if the rich contribute to a service but do not use it.
angel, Feb 27 2002

       Earlier in this piece, Guncrazy contends that by taking the rich out of the pool for organ doners it would increase the chances for the poor. I don't think that it would because if I can sell my organs before I die, why should I donate them when I do. Also nursing homes could become organ banks, with the old selling off parts of themselves to raise cash to stay there. If you are going to treat your own body as a comodity then does it become a seize-able asset in the event of bankrupcy?
dare99, Feb 27 2002

       It's your body. You should be able to sell any part of it, or the whole. You can sell your house, you piad for it. You pay to keep your body healthy, why can't you sell it (or pieces of it). And even if it is un-constitutional, then why can we sell cats, dogs, horses, etc?
gregkerry, Jun 07 2002

       I do not know what are the post-humously donorship statistics in the US, but they're pretty low where I live. Campaigning for people to carry donor cards, and for their families to respect their choice, would be much cheaper than this boat scheme, and would help all members of society. Also, this scheme does not (I hope) solve the problem of lack of organs such as hearts, that can't be donated without killing the donor.
Gwenanda, Aug 24 2002

       Well, where I live, the death of others is in reality the only source for most organs. I suppose we could question the morality of making people wait for someone else to DIE so that they can live...   

       We could also ask questions about the validity of an offshore stem cell research facility.   

       I'm constantly baffled that we've banned stem cell research because it usually requires an embryo to be destroyed, yet we allow fertility clinics which dispose of several embryos with each successful operation.   

       Well, that said, would there be any potential economic benefit from donating... a heart... and replacing your missing member with a mechanical organ to perform the same fuction?
ye_river_xiv, Sep 24 2006


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