Coming Out of Left Field

Friday, December 03, 2004

Transplant ethics

There's a disquieting story in today's Globe about people who need a liver, kidney or other organs, and who are advertising for them online. The article does a fairly good job of explaining the issues this raises -- among them, the difficulty of then determining who "deserves" a given organ. Is it the sickest person? The most eloquent pleader? The highest bidder? (The idea of selling organs, which is currently prohibited, also raises all sorts of ethical issues and makes me shudder.)

Don't misunderstand me -- as the daughter of a liver recipient, I'm all for people getting greater access to organs. I do appreciate that an online service *may* encourage folks to sign up as potential donors. But with personal websites or online matching services, there is no easy way to prioritize. There is no easy way to distinguish between those who are critically ill and those who aren't. There is no easy way to make sure an organ goes to the person who absolutely needs it most, right now.

So if you do want to be a donor, please go the official route. Sign your driver's license, sign a donor's card, and tell your friends and family. It's not a perfect system, but it's more ethical than shopping online.

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