May 05, 2009

Well, I Could Have It Worse

BY WHICH I MEAN, I don't live in Michigan, because the place is apparently turning into Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Back home, according to no less a source than The Detroit News, my fellow Michiganders are engaged in a rather ghoulish kind of commerce for cash. They're selling their hair. They're selling their blood plasma. They're subjecting themselves to medical experiments. Women are even selling their eggs. At this rate, it shouldn't be much longer before Michiganders are selling their kidneys; after all, God has mercifully provided all of us with two of them, when we really only need one.

Of course, one could argue this type of commerce is not really ghoulish, since it involves willing participants on both sides and the articles being handled do not generally make up what economists call a "repugnant market." It's not, after all, as if the good people of Michigan are robbing graves to pay for their kids' college tuition. Still, even for a devotee of free markets like myself, it's kinda offputting.

Why, you ask? Well, I feel bad that anyone has to actually do those types of things for money. Also, I think these folks are getting a raw deal.

I have long thought the American system of "donating" blood and organs is a rather bad deal -- not so much for the recipients, but for the donors. A pint of blood goes for $150 or $200, so why shouldn't I, as a donor, get $30 or $40 for my rare type A-negative? After all, I'm the one doing the hard work.

Along those lines, I'm not exactly thrilled about the idea of being an organ donor, even though I am one. I've had second thoughts about this, but it'd be too much of a hassle to go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles and change it, so there you go.

Now, as you can imagine, I have no plans to die anytime soon. In fact, my own projections indicate I will live to 110 years of age, as I figure my strategic spite duct (a small organ next to the liver) has enough bile, ichor and sheer disgust stored in it to last me until 105 or 106. And even after that's exhausted, my desire to watch sports should prove a strong incentive not to kick the bucket.

But if, God forbid, I should die in an accident or something, why should my estate get nothing if I were to donate my skin, my bones, and my vital organs? I mean, some estimates place the worth of a human cadaver at no less than $200,000.

Now, I know I can't take it with me, but that's not the point. The point is that if I "donate" my dead body for medical uses, other people will profit off it while my estate gets nothing. What's up with that? I mean, it's almost as bad a deal as going to a strip club. And if there's one thing that annoys me in life, it's being on the wrong end of a bad deal. Just because I'd be dead does not mean I suddenly wouldn't have an interest in monetizing, well, me, particularly if it paid for a relative's college tuition. Or a really nice obelisk for my grave site. Or even a mausoleum. Yeah. With nice stained-glass windows, and a phone line in case I suddenly materialize and want pizza.

And if I'm not properly compensated for my monetization when I die, I'm warning you now -- I am going to come back and haunt the hell out of everyone. I'm serious.

MORGUE WORKER: That's odd.
SECOND MORGUE WORKER: What?
MORGUE WORKER: Got cold here all of a sudden.
SECOND MORGUE WORKER: It's just your imagination.
ME: Why you wretched -- ah, God, it's not working! Stupid incorporeal body! All I want to do is strangle him for a minute with my cold spectral hands!
DEATH: Ah, yes. There's a bit of a latent period before you can do that. No one told you?
ME: No, no one told me! And look at these invoices! I mean, I should get thirty thousand at least.
DEATH: Well, you've got a month to figure it out. After that, I get docked on my commission for delivering you late to Purgatory.
ME: Oh, well -- wait, what? You work on commission?

Of course, I don't mean to criticize anyone who is a willing blood or organ donor, and does so out of the goodness of one's heart. That selflessness is noble and the sacrifice is certainly valued. But given the waiting lists for organs, it seems pretty clear that donations aren't enough to get the job done. Also, it seems clear to me that our culture of donation serves up a pretty raw deal for people who are willing to literally give of themselves.

This goes particularly when it comes to women donating eggs. Obviously, they're doing a great service for the recipients, and offering a gift that in many ways is priceless. But as the News reports, the compensation they are given -- capped at $5,000 -- seems far too low to adequately address the very real risks they face. It's no joke to donate anything from one's body, and I think the least we could do to be fair about it would be to offer fair market values for the things donated.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 5, 2009 12:51 PM | TrackBack
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