The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 was supposed to encourage and to make organ donation easier. It didn’t. Congress added a criminal penalty provision subjecting anyone receiving valuable consideration to a $50,000.00 fine and up to five years in prison. Since then fewer than 100 donations are being made each year. The list of those waiting has grown to over 100,000 Americans. About 6,000 people will die this year waiting for Congress to do something about the law that creates too much uncertainty to donate. To illustrate that point Pennsylvania has had since 1994 a pilot program to pay burial expenses for anyone donating their organs. State employees refused to implement the law for fear of being prosecuted under the federal law. Since 1994 the chill has left organ donation recipients out in the cold.

The criminal law was passed to discourage the auctioning of human organs by the poor to the wealthy. The analogy was made to organ auctions on EBay.

Some Congressmen have formed the Congressional Kidney Caucus.  A recent comment by Eric Johnson, Columbia Business School, Columbia University suggest doing what Europe has done making donation the default option and forcing people to opt out instead.

Obviously this is a very complicated issue and one that requires an individual choice, but the concept of selling parts of your body shouldn’t surprise anyone. We already sell our blood to blood banks or spinners who turn around and make a profit for resale. In addition there are private cord blood banks and public blood banks under the National Marrow Donor Program. Tattooing is a form of selling your body as a billboard.  The reference to EBay seems to be an exaggeration that is poorly made on such a critical issue as death and dying from organ failure.  Mr. Specter’s time would be better spent easing up on the criminal penalties, while allowing the program a test period to see how it is being used and then fine tuning NOTA. I’m sure not one of the 100,000 wait-listed organ recipients find his humor at all appropriate and his inaction appropriate. The bottom line is if you screw it up fix it. Perhaps if Senator Spector received 100,000 emails twice a day until it was fixed he'd act on the problem.

“The National Marrow Donor Program estimates that by the year 2015, there will be 10,000 cord blood transplants world-wide per year using publicly banked cord blood. It is therefore vitally important to build public repositories of cord blood donations throughout the world. In the United States, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services is responsible for funding national programs to register marrow donors and bank cord blood donations.”

For more information about cord blood banks see “Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation”.

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