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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4248/simon-says-you-do-not-own-your-organs/

Simon Says You Do Not Own Your Organs

October 22, 2005 by

Laws fail to stop India’s organ trade:

India has a flourishing illegal trade in human organs because no one feels they benefit from the laws that govern transplants, a new report says

INDIA has a flourishing, and illegal, trade in human organs. And the legislation designed to prevent it is failing. That is because no one feels they benefit from the laws that govern organ transplants, be they people requiring a new kidney, donors who sell theirs for cash, or even the hospitals and policy makers who should regulate the practice.

That’s the conclusion of the first investigation into why India’s 1994 Transplantation of Human Organs Act, which banned commercial transplants, is not working. It says the law could be tightened up to remove ambiguities and loopholes. Or the government might wish to take the pragmatic approach and legalise the trade once more, and control it.

I guess people in India do not own their body too. I suppose the real question is, does anyone? Or better yet, is there a way you can own your body?

More on owning your organs: 1 2 3 4 5 6

{ 15 comments }

Lowell R. October 22, 2005 at 10:58 pm

Amen. Either you have the right to sell your organs, or other people have veto power over your own body. But in a world that bans marijuana nearly everywhere while keeping alcohol legal, arbitrariness on things like that is to be expected.

Yancey Ward October 24, 2005 at 8:34 am

What is really ironic is that the most vehement opposition to selling one’s own organs comes from those who most vociferously support abortion rights.

tz October 24, 2005 at 9:31 am

Pro-lifers are against selling organs because they don’t consider you mere property.

So lets say someone steals your organ. Do we now reduce all violence to whatever the equivalent penalty for theft or vandalism? Is violence materially different than theft or not?

Is there such a thing as human dignity which can be violated?

If there isn’t (and rape also becomes a theft of service), please get rid of all the other force and violence talk – they are simply trespasses or thefts or vandalism and a market rate for such ought to be easily established. You are your own cattle, with the inconvienience that you can’t transplant your soul (or whatever you call your will and intellect – which can’t really enter into this as if you can sell your body in part as organ sales implies, the body isn’t intrinsic to your person).

You can conceive of your body as your own (however do you repay your parents for their care and feeding first – why don’t they own you in perpetuity, or at least until you pay back their investment). Or – to use a Limbaughism – it is “on loan from God”. Like a lease car – you can drive it anywhere you want it, but you don’t own it in the sense you don’t have the right to damage or sell it.

Ah but it gets worse. Somehow property now has far greater dignity than human beings. Violate property rights and that is a grave evil. Violate a person, it is only evil because it implicitly violates property rights. I suppose dead people can’t be violated. But if there is no dignity attached to human beings, how can these same human beings claim ownership – that would require the human beings to be superior to the property. But in a world where there is only an abstract ghost and property, human beings as such don’t exist as a different thing than property. So does some property have rights over other property? The abstract ghost can’t have rights.

Lowell R. October 24, 2005 at 10:19 am

tz –

Yes, if you believe your body is “on loan from God,” then I suppose you can’t do with it what God wants you do. Your logic is only valid, of course, if God exists.

Regarding your “market rate” for force — sure, if someone wants to charge X dollars for the privilege of assaulting him, he should be able to do so.

I also disagree with your statement: “But in a world where there is only an abstract ghost and property, human beings as such don’t exist as a different thing than property.” Property exists for the sake of the humans who own it. A human can act on and with the property in a way that other property cannot. Thus, humans are not just property.

Lisa Casanova October 24, 2005 at 12:28 pm

tz,
I’m not sure you understand what’s being said here. People who oppose your right to sell your organs DO see your body as property. They just see it as not YOUR property. Violence against my person is trespass against what is mine. The inviolability of my own body and my absolute control of it is at the foundation of our most basic rights. You seem to be saying that not owning myself completely somehow raises my person above the level of “mere” property. So if owning ourselves is bad because it somehow means our bodies are “only” property, what’s your alternative? Do I somehow have more dignity if someone else can tell me what to do with my own body? Incidentally, your parents own the guardianship rights to you until such time as you are self-sufficient. They don’t own you.

tz October 24, 2005 at 1:20 pm

If you are going to use your body to commit a crime, and someone says “no”, they too are telling you what you can or cannot do with your body (maybe the words should/should not be substituted since it is subject to free will). If you can’t do these things, for whatever reason – either a religious or secular morality – you don’t have “absolute control” in the sense you mean.

And no, I do mean if X is assaulted, and the going market rate for allowing assaults is Y, the compensation should be whatever the damage multiplier times Y is. You can’t claim your car is worth several million for sentimental reasons if I run into it, you can only claim replacement costs.

A human must have a body to act. If he alienates himself from it, we call it death. I don’t say they are not “just property” – I say they are not property at all in the normal sense of the word. Humans have a material body, but humans are both body and soul together – separated they are a corpse and a ghost, and we normally attach rights to neither. It seems strange to say the corpse is the property of the ghost for as long as the ghost can make the body operate – but the ghost can even sell off the corpse in whole or part.

And should parents have a claim until you pay back what they put in to raise you? I.e. did you have the right to freeload until you became self-sufficient.

Walt D. October 24, 2005 at 1:24 pm

Nobody sees anything wrong with people SELLING blood.
Nobody sees anything wrong with donating a kidney to a relative.
In Boston, a judge upheld the parental right to force a minor child, against her will, to donate a kidney to save her sister’s life.
So what’s the problem with selling a kidney? The argument is that if people could sell body organs for money, then this would reduce the supply of “free organs”, and by raising the cost of organs (above zero), ability to pay as opposed to medical need be the determinating factor in decided who get a transplant. To make people feel guilty, this is packaged in terms of moratity and fairness.
This is nothing more than a disguised violation of property rights, along the lines of rent control. There is nothing to stop a city from renting property from the owner at the market rate and then renting it out at a “fair rate”. However, they make the property owner provide the subsidy.
In the case of body organs, the state could pay the going market rate and then choose to donate the organ. In this way, the cost of the “theft” is spread out among taxpayers. Also, since it is the Federal Government that is “taking private property for public use”, shouldn’t the 2nd Ammendment apply?

Lowell R. October 24, 2005 at 3:56 pm

tz –

“If you are going to use your body to commit a crime, and someone says ‘no’, they too are telling you what you can or cannot do with your body…”

This is a perfect example of respect for property rights in action. One cannot use his property — i.e., himself — to violate the property rights of another. This does not demonstrate that the first person does not have property rights, but rather that the second person does — and the rights of the nonaggressor always trump those of the initiator of force.

And no, I do mean if X is assaulted, and the going market rate for allowing assaults is Y, the compensation should be whatever the damage multiplier times Y is. You can’t claim your car is worth several million for sentimental reasons if I run into it, you can only claim replacement costs.

This sounds plausible, but what happens if, say, I offer you a contract allowing you to assault me for $5,000, and you instead just go ahead and beat me up on the spot? To me, it doesn’t seem right that under your framework, you would only have to pay the market rate of $2,000.

“It seems strange to say the corpse is the property of the ghost for as long as the ghost can make the body operate – but the ghost can even sell off the corpse in whole or part.”

How so? The “corpse” is just blood and guts. The status of the “ghost” as a sentient, rational being is what grants the entity rights.

“And should parents have a claim until you pay back what they put in to raise you?”

No, primarily because the parents’ purchases and other sacrifices were done totally voluntarily (i.e., they could give up their child for adoptuon at any time).

tz October 25, 2005 at 9:59 am

If you don’t respect your own body, I should trust you to respect other’s rights?

Also note the subtle semantic shift – The original text I responded to was “The inviolability of my own body and my absolute control of it…”. Absolute control? Or limited use? If we limit the use to those things which do not violate some principles (such as property rights), why not limit it otherwise as to not destroy itself.

That is the difference between giving blood, or some other low-risk easily taken tissue. If an action is intrinsically hazardous and permanent, it isn’t the same thing as labor or sales.

I can’t say what some bizzare court has decided, but we allow the exchange of like for like, things of the same kind. We don’t worry about exchange of property for property, but what about liberty for property or life for property? Marriage is not a commercial exchange, but it is a covenant – and more than a contract (in essence – I’m not talking about the current state of the art of the state).

You cannot do evil so that good will result. A donated organ is an act of charity to save a life. A sold organ is an act of avarice and prostitution.

A vote to acquit involving jury nullification – voting not guilty because the law is wrong although you believe a violation occured is noble. A vote of not guilty because you were paid is bribery and immoral and criminal and also prostitution.

You can post an offer to have your old car damaged for $100,000, but I don’t think you could collect from anyone if they did damage it. (I could also do a battery without an assault or find some other loophole in the contract). Just because you offer something in a contract doesn’t mean I have to accept it or that it sets a value different from a market value.

As to the ghost/corpse – if I separate the ghost and corpse, i.e. murder the individual, so the ghost can’t act or express its will, what then? What crime did I commit beyond destroying the property. Is murder now merely high vandalism?

And as to parents – what if there is no one to take the child for adoption, so the sacrifices aren’t voluntary, or the “adopters” are a Dickensian workhouse out of David Copperfield or worse?

Paul Edwards October 25, 2005 at 10:42 am

TZ: If you don’t respect your own body, I should trust you to respect other’s rights?

What is the implication of this rhetorical question? To me, you are saying that we also cannot trust smokers and eaters of fast food to respect others rights. What then shall we do with these dubious characters who violate their own bodies with nicotine and fatty unhealthful foods?

TZ: A donated organ is an act of charity to save a life. A sold organ is an act of avarice and prostitution.

I don’t think this follows from anything we read in Human Action or MES, however, I would be interested in the passages from scripture (if this is the basis of your position) that lead you to this conclusion. On first pass, it seems to me there is a vast moral difference between selling an organ and selling sex.

Lisa Casanova October 25, 2005 at 3:57 pm

tz,
The problem with your position is that it rests on nothing. The world is full of people who look at other people’s property and say “You’re a greedy bastard to sell that. You should be giving it away!” This can apply to kidneys, gasoline, food, shelter, or whatever a person owns that someone else happens to want at any given time. People have an amazing capacity to think of reasons why stuff that they covet belongs to a special moral category of “should be given away for charity”. Just because you are happy to give away other people’s organs for free does not make that the moral thing for them to do, and it certainly does not make them greedy (you can say it makes them prostitutes, but I have no particular problem with prostitution anyway, so go ahead). The fact that organ selling and prostitution trigger some people’s ill-defined ick factor does not justify violating another person’s right to their own body.

tz October 26, 2005 at 10:36 pm

Your body is integral to your liberty as you need it to act, as much as your will and intellect. So far we don’t honor the wishes of disembodied ghosts, assuming we could find one. Either your life and liberty are transcendent and thus not “for sale”, or you probably have already sold them (for things like not being harassed about not having a SSN or driver’s license). But if you would trade something sacred – above commerce – for anything profane, I can’t count on you not to trade MY liberty or life when it is convenient. If you value yours – your life, liberty, person, or body parts, it is only because no one had bid high enough. I value both mine and yours to not recognize them as being salable.

My point on (vital, risky) organ transplants is that when donated, it is a life for a life, or risks of things of the same KIND. It does not derive from scripture. I don’t think either Mises or Rothbard said the entire universe was property (or even the physical universe – though I don’t think they would have considered free will or reason “property” to be traded). Either your will and intellect, your life (and by extension your bodily integrity) and liberty are property or they are not. If they are not, they can’t be exchanged as if they are.

Selling sex, or an organ, or a jury vote violates the integrity of the person, or says the integrity of the person is for sale. Again, I don’t consider blood or skin grafts, or other parts which regenerate or don’t impose a risk if removed as being a problem. Kidneys are near borderline since I don’t know how common failure is (if 30 years from now we discover those who have sold them dying off from kidney failure, it would be something we would regret).

Reply to LC: I don’t think it is greed. We don’t consider marriage – which is normally “free” to be inferior to prostitution, yet sex was central to the institution. Marriage is the opposite of “free sex”, yet neither spouse pays the other for use of their body when they feel the need.

The case with the organ is as follows:

Person A is at risk of death (or grave illness) without an organ.

Person B would risk his life or health to give person A the organ.

Person B might consider it a noble act to risk his life to save A, or he might not, or may not want to take the risk. But the decision is not to profit, but to be heroic and save a life at the risk of his own.

I do NOT think person B should “give away” his organ, nor should he not be compensated for his loss (time, travel and other expenses, etc). I have never said so and deny that vehemently. Person B should be free to consider the risks and honors and act as he sees fit.

But I don’t think person B should “sell” his life and health – his organ. The goal is then merely to make money, not save a life. But thieves make money by doing dishonorable things, yet no one here says that is a good thing. Or maybe thieves should “sell” their services, so they wouldn’t keep the stolen items, but simply be compensated for their labor. Would that make things better? I don’t think so.

My point is selling your life/health/body is not different from selling your honor or liberty. You can sacrifice your life to save another life, trade your liberty equally with your spouse in marriage, but note these are exchanges of the same KIND of thing, not life for liberty, or either for money.

tz October 26, 2005 at 10:36 pm

Your body is integral to your liberty as you need it to act, as much as your will and intellect. So far we don’t honor the wishes of disembodied ghosts, assuming we could find one. Either your life and liberty are transcendent and thus not “for sale”, or you probably have already sold them (for things like not being harassed about not having a SSN or driver’s license). But if you would trade something sacred – above commerce – for anything profane, I can’t count on you not to trade MY liberty or life when it is convenient. If you value yours – your life, liberty, person, or body parts, it is only because no one had bid high enough. I value both mine and yours to not recognize them as being salable.

My point on (vital, risky) organ transplants is that when donated, it is a life for a life, or risks of things of the same KIND. It does not derive from scripture. I don’t think either Mises or Rothbard said the entire universe was property (or even the physical universe – though I don’t think they would have considered free will or reason “property” to be traded). Either your will and intellect, your life (and by extension your bodily integrity) and liberty are property or they are not. If they are not, they can’t be exchanged as if they are.

Selling sex, or an organ, or a jury vote violates the integrity of the person, or says the integrity of the person is for sale. Again, I don’t consider blood or skin grafts, or other parts which regenerate or don’t impose a risk if removed as being a problem. Kidneys are near borderline since I don’t know how common failure is (if 30 years from now we discover those who have sold them dying off from kidney failure, it would be something we would regret).

Reply to LC: I don’t think it is greed. We don’t consider marriage – which is normally “free” to be inferior to prostitution, yet sex was central to the institution. Marriage is the opposite of “free sex”, yet neither spouse pays the other for use of their body when they feel the need.

The case with the organ is as follows:

Person A is at risk of death (or grave illness) without an organ.

Person B would risk his life or health to give person A the organ.

Person B might consider it a noble act to risk his life to save A, or he might not, or may not want to take the risk. But the decision is not to profit, but to be heroic and save a life at the risk of his own.

I do NOT think person B should “give away” his organ, nor should he not be compensated for his loss (time, travel and other expenses, etc). I have never said so and deny that vehemently. Person B should be free to consider the risks and honors and act as he sees fit.

But I don’t think person B should “sell” his life and health – his organ. The goal is then merely to make money, not save a life. But thieves make money by doing dishonorable things, yet no one here says that is a good thing. Or maybe thieves should “sell” their services, so they wouldn’t keep the stolen items, but simply be compensated for their labor. Would that make things better? I don’t think so.

My point is selling your life/health/body is not different from selling your honor or liberty. You can sacrifice your life to save another life, trade your liberty equally with your spouse in marriage, but note these are exchanges of the same KIND of thing, not life for liberty, or either for money.

Michael A. Clem October 27, 2005 at 9:24 am

So selling body organs is comparable to prostitution or thievery? Certainly it’s not comparable to thievery–thieves are violating other people’s rights. But yes, you could say it’s comparable to prostitution, where someone is selling something that you and many other people find objectionable.
But that’s where we have to draw a line. Being objectionable or offensive is not enough justification for making it illegal. If enough people find it objectionable, then the force of society would be enough to restrict or marginalize its use without resorting to the law. If anything, such societal pressures are more effective without the force of law.
So yes, I think selling organs and prostitution should be legal, but I think that the force of society would still minimize such transactions. Certainly, my girlfriend would be, er, quite upset with me if I were to use the services of a prostitute. ;-)

JIM` June 23, 2006 at 6:46 pm

I like eating kidney beans, but, I’d never sell my kidney. Unless it was for a lot of money. Then I would loan it to your for a weak.

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