Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Body Part Market

Black_markets_2In Black Markets: The Supply and Demand of Body Parts, Michele Goodwin (Everett Fraser Professor of Law, University of MInnesota Law School) examines the problems that arise because of a shortage of organs.

Here is a description of her book:

In direct response to indefinite delays on the national transplantation waitlists and an inadequate supply of organs, a growing number of terminally ill Americans are turning to international underground markets and brokers for organs. Offering a contemporary view of organ and tissue supply and demand, Michele Goodwin explores the legal, racial and social nuances of current altruistic institutionalized procurement schemes. It is understandably not publicized that Chinese inmates sitting on death row and the economically disadvantaged in India and Brazil are the most often compromised co-participants in the negotiation process and supply kidney and other organs for Americans as well as other Westerners willing to shop and pay in the shadow of the law. Goodwin suggests that the best alternative model for organ procurement is a market approach or one based on presumed consent and provides an alternative way of studying how to increase the supply of organs and other body parts as well.

Jennifer Bard (Alvin R. Allison Professor of Law and Director, Health Law Program ) has recently published a somewhat critical review of this book in 33 J. Health Pol. Pol’y & L. 117 (2007).  Here is an excerpt from the review's abstract:

Black Markets: The Supply and Demand of Body Parts is an important contribution to the body of scholarship and policy analysis about one of the most difficult problems facing contemporary health policy, public health, and bioethics: the fact that the demand for donor organs far outstrips supply. In this book, Michelle Goodwin systematically reviews the general ways in which the United States' current organ-donation and transplantation system negatively affects potential donors and recipients, particularly African Americans. She proposes solving these problems by changing the current system that prohibits payment for organs to one that allows it. However, I argue that the entire discussion of a market-based solution to the problem of a shortage in supply in donor organs suffers from a flaw far greater than the inability to predict how such a market would work, because of a lack of reliable evidence that an offer of compensation would be effective in changing the minds of people who currently decline to donate the organs of their loved ones.


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