The Moral Limits of Markets: The Case of Human Kidneys
Satz (Debra)
Source: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 30 June 2008
Paper - Abstract

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Draft Paper - Introduction

  1. Societies sometimes ban the sale of goods whose supply they actually wish to support or encourage. Examples include bans on markets in votes, children and human organs. In the United States, sales of organs such as kidneys are currently illegal, and those needing transplants1 must rely on altruistic donation. From an economic perspective, an organ ban appears inefficient, since it seems likely that payments to donors would elicit greater supply, thereby reducing chronic shortages. From a libertarian perspective, a ban on organ sales is an illegitimate infringement with personal liberty. Non-libertarian proponents of a market in human organs also argue that a ban on sales is morally dubious, since lives would be saved by the increased supply.
  2. The idea of establishing a kidney market is now attracting unprecedented levels of support among those involved in transplantation2, as well as among economists and medical ethicists. What, then, is behind the popular repugnance to markets in human organs? This paper examines the values at stake in the debate about organ markets, particularly those of autonomy, weak agency, and inequality. Although the issue of whether or not to introduce a kidney market is a practical one, my aims in this essay are philosophical: to clarify the nature of the values at issue in the debate and to focus in on the ways that markets in human organs differ from markets in other goods, goods such as apples, computers or cars.

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