To This We Have Been Reduced – Organ Barter

The American medical system is a shambles. This is not news to anyone who deals with a chronic illness or who has experienced a serious medical incident. And no class of people have it more rough than those who, for whatever reason, are waiting for an organ transplant. Chronic shortages of organs, baroque systems for matching donors to recipients, omnipresent (but rarely discussed) favoritism toward the wealthy and the famous, all combine to make the organ location and donation process a nightmare.

So now…desperate patients and their families are turning to the equivalent of ‘organ personals’ for locating available, and altruistic, donors because, in the US at least, federal law makes the sale of one’s organs a crime—a safeguard that is supposed to remove any advantage that the wealthy might enjoy. (Though, the ability to spend money on the search for a compatible donor gives the wealthy an inherent advantage.)

And predictably, mechanisms like Craigslist bring out the wackos who are willing to trade their organs if the price is right, federal law be damned. An artist offers his kidney in exchange for the purchase of $250,000 worth of his paintings. A foreigner offers his kidney in exchange for relocation to the United States, all expenses paid.

In this economy, one has to ask how long it will be before the the necessities of life—food, shelter, heat—become the commodities that one’s organs might purchase. Sounds like some kind of extreme dystopian nightmare, right? Sure it does, but who could have imagined that someone would trade their kidney for an all expense paid trip to a country on the verge of a financial ‘Dark Age’?

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