WTB Organs, PST

While I'm still on the topic of organ markets, it was pretty cool to come across this NYTimes book review the other day, in which V-Po discusses Kieran Healy's ''Last Best Gifts.'' It's also pretty cool that, though a hardcore lefty on most subjects, Kieran Healy, when it comes to the topic of his academic research focus, is right on the money:

As an economic sociologist, Healy adds important dimensions to the intensifying debate over organ procurement. He reminds both advocates and opponents of markets that commercial transactions are embedded in social structures and as likely as any other exchanges to have social meaning. To succeed, incentives must show sensitivity to those meanings. A direct payment to a funeral home, for example, could honor a donor family's decision without making them seem to profit from their loved one's death. Or healthy adults could make binding contracts to be organ donors if they die in the right circumstances, with life insurance paid for by transplant centers, the government or a private foundation going to their heirs. [...]

Financial incentives would operate within complex organizational structures, as well as contract and liability law. Bureaucratic institutions, notably hospitals and insurers, would shape the environment in which transplants take place. Many kidney sellers would still have humanitarian motives. ''The idea that markets inevitably corrupt,'' Healy writes, ''is not tenable precisely because they are embedded within social relations, cultural categories and institutional routines.'' Commerce isn't antithetical to culture; it is part of it.

Full disclosure: My father, a lifelong diabetic, received a kidney and pancreas transplant six years ago. He was on a waiting list for 9 months prior to receiving the organs, and the doctors had given him about 2 weeks to live when the call came in that one was available. As thankful as I am that my dad was one of the lucky ones, he could just as likely have been one of the countless others stuck withering away on dialysis until it was too late, killed because of an artificially-induced shortage. But at least we haven't offended any delicate anti-market sensibilities with "commodification."

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