Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Should you have the right to sell your kidney?

Amit Varma asks the question, "Does your body belong to you?" And responds as follows:

Your answer, but naturally, would be: "Of course it does. How dare you even ask?"
And I presume that you'd strongly protest any attempt by the government to assume control over your body. If it issued a diktat that you may not use your left hand on Sundays, or pierce your left earlobe during summer, you would sneer in disbelief, and refuse to give in to the state's conceit.
I also presume that you'd extend your ownership to your kidneys.

Source: India Uncut: Does your body belong to you?

"Legalising the trade of kidneys, thus, should be a complete no-brainer," he goes on to argue.

Quite so, but it may not be correct to assume that because you have ownership of your body, you may trade in it as you please. That would allow unfettered licence for prostitution. Worse, it would make it legal for a very rich man to buy body parts--for making soup, for instance.

Therefore, the trade must be regulated because markets often do not produce desirable (or even efficient) outcomes. Not only in kidneys, but in all the other things that you may own or create.

Consider this: a rich man buys a kidney or two from people who's tissue-type matches his own, and then forbids them from donating or selling to anyone else, as a kind of insurance for himself. Would that be desirable, or even defensible?

Amit doesn't actually make the simplistic argument above. I made it up to present the case for regulation of any trade in kidneys.

How should such regulation be effected? How would I know, I'm only a blogger!


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