Slippery slope? Let's hope so
By Scott Sumner
The Washington Post has an interesting article on the shortage of organs available for transplant. The article actually quoted something I wrote on the subject, and then goes on to discuss other views:
From Sally Satel of the American Enterprise Institute:
[To] save lives, let’s test incentives. A model reimbursement plan would look like this: Donors would not receive a lump sum of cash; instead, a governmental entity or a designated charity would offer them in-kind rewards, such as a contribution to the donor’s retirement fund; an income tax credit or a tuition voucher; lifetime health insurance; a contribution to a charity of the donor’s choice; or loan forgiveness.
The legislation introduced last week, sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), wouldn’t set up a specific incentive system as Satel suggested. It would, however, make it legal for donors to accept reimbursement for the costs of giving their organs, such as for travel, lost wages, medical expenses, legal costs, etc. — all expensive burdens that currently land on the shoulders of private donors.
If passed, the bill would also allow the Department of Health and Human Services to run pilot programs to see how non-cash incentives could affect organ donations. This could boost the number of organs available, which has stagnated, especially during the recession.
In my view this proposal will start us down the slippery slope toward a full fledged commercial market for organs. At some point in the future people will say “If we allow this sort of compensation, then why not try Sally Satel’s proposal?” And once her proposal is adopted, my even more radical proposal will start to look less extreme.
If someone had advocated gay marriage back in the 1950s, the public would have freaked out. Instead, gay rights progressed one step at a time, and eventually even gay marriage didn’t seem to be such an outlandish idea. Slippery slopes can be good things, if they lead us in the right direction.