Unnecessary Tragedy

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

by Walter E. Williams

Last week a federal judge ordered Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, to be moved to the adult lung transplant list. That gives her a better chance of receiving a potentially lifesaving transplant. Sarah Murnaghan's fate should force us to examine our organ transplant policy.

There are more than 88,000 Americans on the organ transplant waiting list. Roughly 10 percent of them will die before receiving an organ. These lost lives are not so much an act of God as they are an act of Congress because of its 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, as amended, which prohibits payment to organ donors.

Reliance on voluntary donations has been an abject policy failure. The mindless rhetoric used to support this policy is: "Organ transplantation is built upon altruism and public trust." It's noteworthy that everyone involved in the organ transplant business is compensated – that includes hospitals, surgeons, nurses and organ procurement workers. Depending on the organ transplanted, the charges range from a low of $260,000 for a kidney to about a million dollars for a heart or intestines

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