Human Exceptionalism

New York Times (of course) Let’s Organ Ghoul Justify Himself

I wrote previously here at SHS of my disgust with the book Larry’s Kidney–which of course wasn’t Larry’s at all, but that of a Chinese political, criminal, or Falun Gong prisoner–who was killed for the lucre that the book’s author, Daniel Asa Rose. paid to obtain the organ for his cousin. And I later wrote here of my disgust of the good reviews the book received,  reviews that overlooked the said spilling of blood and grabbing of said kidney, to applaud said story as an uproarious “slapstick comedy.”

Now add the New York Times to the disgust list–that “paper of record” about which there is, oh, so much to be disgusted.  Today, its op/ed page offered Rose a platform to both justify his purchase of Larry’s kidney and try to come off as righteous about public policy in the process.  First, Rose writes that we should not be upset if Steve Jobs cut in line to get his liver because this is the way “the greater world operates.”  (I have intentionally not commented on the Jobs situation because I don’t know what happened.) And then, he quickly gets into his book.  From the column, “A Better Way to Get a Kidney:”

In China, where my cousin Larry and I went to get him a kidney two summers ago (despite the official Chinese restriction against Westerners doing so), jumping the line is so commonplace as to be unworthy of comment. No one gets angry at a pretty secretary or harried businessman who cuts in front; everyone just takes a half step back and resumes gesticulating on their cellphones. If anything, there’s a grudging admiration of such blatant self-advancement.

First come first served, that’s the American fantasy. But in fact strength and speed prevail, as they tend to do in other contests. Dog eat dog. Darwinism of the waiting line. Call it what you like, it’s not only accepted in most places around the globe, it’s expected. No wonder there’s so much medical tourism — up to 10 percent of the world’s transplant surgery.

Great. Rather than be ethical and follow the rule of law, we should emulate China. Besides, that excuse doesn’t cut it.  Most people do not go to China or anywhere else and pay to get someone else killed–which is why their waiting lines are so short there–in order to get their kidney.

Then, Rose comes across as the caring policy crusader:

No one would need to wait more than a year for an organ transplant if we revolutionize organ donation in three ways: better finance stem-cell research so we can start simply growing kidneys; build better mechanical organs; and change the presumed consent option so that people would have to opt out of donating organs rather than opt in.

Baloney. Baloney. Baloney.

  • We”ve poured billions and billions into stem cell research and no reputable scientist believes stem cells, whether embryonic or adult, will allow us to make whole new organs–assuming it can be done–for many years.
  • Mechanical organs, if they can be developed, are still a very long way off.
  • And, whatever the merits or demerits of presumed consent, it would not greatly reduce the waiting lines because even if the number of donated organs increase as Rose says–we are talking about a large percentage increase of a very small number, meaning it might shorten the lines somewhat, but not dramatically.  (The prime reasons for the long lines are that increased auto safety and helmet laws have made for fewer catastrophic head injuries, while the improvements in organ transplant medicine has made more people eligible for the treatment.) I oppose presumed consent–and Canada, the UK, and other nations have rejected it– for reasons I wrote about here and here.

Of course, this is all book promotion. But it is disgusting, nonetheless. And the New York Times, that paragon of liberal virtue, continues its death spiral.

But Wesley, would you do it if it were you or your wife who needed the kidney?  I sure hope not.  Besides, Secondhand Smokette would kill me if I did–whether for her or for me.