A few years ago, I was visiting a science centre and chuckled at one of the exhibits. Visitors read about all of the different metals in the blood, cells, etc. and could step on a scale and determine their net worth – literally how much their body would be worth if the trace nickel, copper, iron, gold and the like were harvested. It was based on weight and I was worth a whopping $6.25 (in a sadly unrelated note, I’d probably be worth nearly $8.00 now).
On one of my new favourite sites – BioEthics.com – there is link to an interesting article about the ethics of selling human organs. It’s been known for years that certain countries are harvesting organs and even selling them to Westerners who go on ‘medical holidays’ to collect a precious kidney or liver. Kidneys are the obvious choice, because people have two, there are approximately 1 million people with renal failure around the world on waiting lists, and there just aren’t enough cadavers to go around.
So this begs the question. Would allowing people in direr (?) straits to sell one of their kidneys while living, be ethical? Well the world is basically turning a blind eye to the illegal harvesting now (mostly coming from the ultra-poor, executed prisoners and others that won’t be missed when they turn up in the local dump with two half-moon scars on their back). Would there be a line up at the local kidney collectian agency (KCA) if you could make a few thousand bucks? What would be next? – a lung, an eye, a piece of a liver? People harvesting others’ organs on their own and turning them in? Interesting stuff!