Friday, June 11, 2021

Governments should buy kidneys, in Journal of Applied Philosophy

 Philosophers argue differently than economists do, but can sometimes reach similar conclusions.  And (like economists) philosophers can sometimes reach very different conclusions from one another. Here's a philosopher who comes out in favor of allowing governments to pay for kidneys, to be allocated to transplant recipients without requiring any payment from them. Among the philosophical counterarguments to a market that must be dealt with along the way are those such as "it is unjust to be paid to do one's duty" (i.e. since the healthy may be argued to have a duty to the ill, we shouldn't try to reduce the shortage of organs by compensating donors because they have a duty to be altruistic...).  I don't think this is a line of argument that an economist would feel compelled to respond to.

 Why States Should Buy Kidneys, by Aksel Braanen Sterri, Journal of Applied Philosophy, First published: 02 June 2021

ABSTRACT: In this article, I argue we have collective duties to people who suffer from kidney failure and these duties are best fulfilled through a government-monopsony market in kidneys. A government-monopsony market is a model where the government is the sole buyer, and kidneys are distributed according to need, not ability to pay. The framework of collective duties enables us to respond to several of the most pressing ethical and practical objections to kidney markets, including Cécile Fabre's objection that it is unjust to be paid to do one's duty, Simon Rippon's objections that it is harmful to be pressured to sell a kidney and that a market is unfair, Richard Titmuss's crowding out objection, and Ronald Dworkin's objection that body parts should not be among the goods we owe each other.

"By prohibiting monetary compensation, it has been objected that the government takes advantage of people who feel compelled to save someone close to them. Receiving a kidney may also come with a price, a price compounded by how kidney donations are framed within the current system: as priceless gifts and extraordinary acts of sacrifice. When kidney donations are seen in this way, they may impose a burden of gratitude on the recipient; recipients may feel they can never repay such priceless gifts. ‘The tyranny of the gift’ challenges the donor and recipient's equal standing.


"Several authors, most notably Charles Erin and John Harris, have defended a government-monopsony model. My primary contribution is to present a novel defence of this model. I argue we have collective duties to provide the sick with kidneys and derivative duties to pay donors. This view provides us with resources to respond to many of the most compelling ethical objections to kidney markets."

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