The Chapman Dialogue on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, “
Should We Lift the Ban on Buying and Selling Human Organs for Transplantation?
” featured Professor Alexander Capron of the University of Southern California (USC), a professor of Law and Medicine and Co-Director of the Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics.
At the well-attended talk, Professor Capron explained that the
National Organ Transplant Act of 1984
was put into effect after an attempt to create a market for Latin Americans to come to the United States and earn money by selling their organs. With the current wait for human organs for transplant at a few years, depending on the organ, the notion to remove the prior ban was rooted in increasing the number of organs provided in less time for those in need.
“Meeting the needs of the population for organ transplants required both that the donation rate be maximized AND the underlying disease burden be minimized,” said Professor Capron. The U.S. ratio of patients newly included on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in 2011 had a significant gap between donations. Other countries, such as Spain, have a smaller gap due to a higher amount of donations from deceased citizens.
Professor Thomas W. Bell of Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law
moderated the dialogue and argued to lift the ban on the market for human organ transplantation. He posed the question to Professor Capron that if the government figured out the “correct” way to handle this market, what effect would it have on the transplant market? Professor Capron discussed how he thought the supply of transplants would not increase or possibly even decrease because it removes the altruistic factor of current donations.
One of the arguments made by Professor Capron focused on the symbolic motive behind a transplant. If someone is donating for a friend or family member, it will cause the donor to be forthcoming about their information and history because they care about the outcome. Those that are selling their organs out of a financial need might not be as forthcoming in order to make a quick sale. He also argued that opening up the market for the sale of organs would likely reduce those willing to donate organs, so that there would be no net increase in new organ availability in a truly market-driving model.
Professor Alexander Capron
is a globally recognized expert in health policy and medical ethics. He received his B.A. in economics, history and English literature from Swathmore College and his LL.B. from Yale Law School, where he was an officer of the
Yale Law Journal
. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and served as President of the International Association of Bioethics. Professor Capron is a trustee of The Century Foundation, an officer of Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research, as well as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Sciences) and of the American Law Institute.