Guest lecturer discusses the legalization of organ sales

Last Thursday, Feb. 14, Trinity hosted a guest lecture delivered by James Stacey Taylor, a professor of philosophy at the College of New Jersey, on the topic of legalization of free markets for organs. Taylor delivered his lecture to an audience of slightly over 50 people, arguing for the legalization of organ markets.

The lecture itself was slightly over an hour long. Taylor cracked plenty of jokes, most of which enjoyed good success. Evan Cofer, a first year attendee, enjoyed the lecture.

“Dr. Taylor gave an entertaining yet informative lecture,” Cofer said.

Taylor views the debate over organ markets as an important one, noting that “[w]e are in a situation where we need organs desperately…current markets in human organs are morally good.”

Taylor focused his lecture on kidney markets, citing the kidney’s status as an organ that can theoretically be donated or sold without great harm to the person donating or selling, due to the fact that most humans have two functioning kidneys. Taylor mentioned early in his lecture that his views stand in contrast with those of other academics.

“Most bioethicists for some unaccountable reasons oppose markets in human kidneys, and the objections are persuasive and plausible – at least at first glance,” Taylor said.

Taylor essentially believes that banning organ markets reduces overall free will by taking away an option for income from people living in poverty, as well as curbs the number of people who are willing to give up their organs.

“What we have now is a situation that is explicitly coercive,” Taylor said. “If you tried to sell your kidney, you would be taken to court, fined and jailed.”

At one point, Taylor compared organ markets to the McDonald’s business model, noting that McDonald’s only makes and distributes its products because of a profit motivation. He argues that McDonald’s would quit making its product if the markets for its products were banned,  so people refrain from donating their kidneys because donation has no profit motivation.

“Remove the price ceiling of 0, remove the ban on kidney markets, and you will get kidneys becoming available. That’s straightforward, simple, economic proof,” Taylor said.

Taylor also mentioned that every modern country currently has a shortage of kidneys, with the exception of one: Iran, which implemented policies in previous decades that legalized kidney markets.

“In 1988, Iran had exactly the same problem as every modern country in the world: a chronic shortage of human kidneys. In the year 2000, Iran became the only country in the world not to have a shortage of kidneys,” Taylor said. “They now have a waiting list of people waiting to sell their kidneys.”

Taylor finished his lecture to a round of applause from the attendees, many of whom stayed afterwards to speak to the visiting guest lecturer.

Cofer felt that the lecture was good but some of the examples were not.

“I highly doubt any medical professional would consider Iran a model of medical safety,” Cofer said.