The Least Bad Option

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

The reader who says they "would have gladly sold one of [his] own kidneys...without a second thought" if it would have saved a family member or allowed them to avoid foreclosure goes on to express misgivings about this and says that they wouldn't want to legalize the selling of organs. His argument (such as it is) boils down to "save me from my own bad judgment" but never explains why this judgment would have been so bad. Take the situation he now finds himself in: facing foreclosure in a year's time. Of the two outcomes on the table, a) he sells a kidney, saves his home, saves someone's life in the bargain and has little other side effects or b) he loses his home, and some stranger dies for lack of a kidney while he gets to keep his, why is a) dismissed out of hand as the morally questionable option? It's bizarre. What else does is the reader afraid he would do if not for legislation?

Another reader adds:

All due respect, your dissent of the day doesn't say much, except that he or she would be really tempted to sell a kidney when that $10,000 would really make a difference in their lives. And that makes them uncomfortable. I think any time we use our bodies as commodities, there is an ugly aspect to it. This goes for prostitution, or to a lesser extent, stripping, or performing in pornography. Legalizing these activities is certainly not the "perfect" world. But in the perfect world, you never languish on a kidney donor list for months or years. And in a "perfect" world, you are never faced with foreclosures or other personal financial crises. Legalizing the selling of kidneys, just like the legalization of prostitution, would never be a perfect solution. It is the least worst solution - that is, while it would make us all uncomfortable, the status quo is worse.

John Schwenkler is also confused.