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The UK newspaper the Guardian has an interesting article about whether kidney donors should be paid for their troubles. It's a survey of other various peoples' attitudes and reactions rather than an editorial arguing for some point of view, and as such it doesn't really get to dig all that deeply into anyone's reasoning. But it seems like a good snapshot of what different people think.

I'm not against paying transplant-donors for their services. We pay people for egg and sperm donations already, and as I recall surrogate mothers can be paid for the use of their womb. There are real differences between a kidney and sperm, not least that sperm is constantly replaced whereas with kidneys it's pretty much a one-shot deal. But I've seen the results of not having available organs firsthand, an I think those differences pretty well pale beside the human cost of not having enough organs. What does not pale is the concern that donations means there will be more transplants for the rich and less for the poor - but if any healthcare system can handle that concern, a nationalized one like the U.k. can. As I understand it, it's the NHS and not the recipient of the organ paying the donor. I'd like to see more details, but that makes me think the U.K. could handle this right if anyone can.

But I'll admit - I'm actually fairly ticked off at one motif that kept coming up in the reasons people were giving for this suggestion. Sue Roff, a research fellow at the University of Dundee who has been pushing the suggestion, said that the £28,000 payment to the donor "would be an incentive across most income levels for those who wanted to do a kind deed and make enough money to, for instance, pay off university loans."

It's the paying off student loans bit that got me. You may remember that back in October the Browne commission decided that British universities would get less funding through the government, requiring that the universities raise the tuition they charge. I was mad about that move then, and I still am, though of course with the passage of time more recent outrages have grabbed my attention. :^P Americans are so used to paying so much of their tuition themselves and taking out exorbitant loans to do it. I really admired the British for recognizing education (by my analysis, at least) not as a perk of wealth but as a universal right of all humans. Also that there is a need for all members of a democracy to be well-educated.

So this idea that the poor or middle class could just sell off a body part to afford what by rights society should be providing them? *blech* It's offensive in the extreme, and it's also a wrong-headed view of how society should work. If I had a body part that I could safely give up to my neighbor, I think it's my civic duty to give it up to save his life or prevent his suffering. Especially if someone else was paying my health care needs and paying me back for the time I spent recuperating. (For the record, I am a registered organ donor and would be proud to donate an organ that I could live without but that someone else needed, even to a stranger.)

That's what it means to be part of a society - to care about others. And to have them cared about me. Use that £28,000 to pay for education and decent housing and investment in the arts and sciences and in diplomacy to insure peace. Don't expect me to ransom off my body to provide those services that I should get because I'm a human being and a member of this society. And trust me to do my part, to actually be a human being and put myself out there for my fellow citizens who need it.

Frankly, given the recent history of student fees in the U.K., I find this suggestion... ill-thought-out. To say the least.

This entry was originally posted at http://fidesquaerens.dreamwidth.org/2286.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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