Monthly Archives: July 2009

Alcoholic denied liver transplant, dead at 22


A double header on organ transplants: see this post on legalizing organ sales. This article notes the precedent setting case of a 22 year old alcoholic being denied a transplant and left to die – attributed to the severe shortage or available organs in Britain. If organ sales were legal, this fellow would have had his second chance at life: right or wrong?

Do we take pride in our society’s ability to offer second chances? Or wield a harsh and deadly sword call pragmatism?

Huge commentary at Reddit.

More coverage at the Times.

“The NHS Blood and Transplant service said Mr Reinbach’s case highlighted the dilemma faced by doctors because of a shortage of donated organs.”

“He was admitted to a London hospital in May but died after doctors refused to give him a liver transplant amid fears he would not stay sober for six months after the operation.”

“They told him to stop smoking and he did. They told him to stay in bed and he did. All he wanted to do was prove that he was serious, and that he wouldn’t drink again.”


Image Credit: Stuart Clarke, Times Online.

Legalizing organ sales: one way to reduce waiting lists

UPDATE: Also see this follow-up post on a 22 year old alcoholic denied a transplant and now dead.

Doctors proposing that selling your organs need not be illegal: This article will make you think. It tells the story of a somewhat schizophrenic homeless American man, recruited to sell a kidney in Houston, and along the way provides a great summary of some of the ethical issues around organ sales, and suggests that there’s a growing liberalization of thinking around the issue.

I’m not advocating this – just hoping to generate some discussion. I’ve been getting some vocal free market comments recently, so how about it? Should the free market extend to organ sales? What if it were government sponsored and regulated, and served a social agenda (see excerpts below)?

This article is also a harrowing tale of homelessness. Lots to talk about here.

“…chronic kidney disease has become an epidemic. The waiting list for kidney transplants in the United States has reached 78,000, and about a third of the people on it will die before they get one. The average wait is now three to five years.” [Houston Press, Page 3]

“Dr. Benjamin Hippen, a nephrologist [kidney specialist]…  believes… that the vast unmet demand for kidneys in rich countries creates black markets for them in poor ones. He became involved … to address the specter of transplant tourism.” [Houston Press, Page 3]

How about non-cash compensation?

“…Hippen suggests nontransferable, nonmonetary forms of government compensation that, as he puts it, ‘demonstrate the type of respect for a person selling their kidney that tossing a couple of bucks on the ground doesn’t.’ These could be anything from pension plans to lifelong health care. He says pilot projects are the best way to determine what, if anything, works best. Late last year, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania sponsored a bill that would amend the 1984 law against compensation to allow for exactly that.” [Houston Press, Page 3]

Obama sums it up: when his father, Barack Obama Sr., came to the United States from Kenya, Kenya’s GDP was higher than Korea’s.

“Obviously much has happened since then and he wanted to make it clear that the problems that Africans face weren’t just a product of colonialism or past history,” Froman said, “that this partnership — whether it’s over food security or other development ideas — require local governments to take responsibility seriously. This wasn’t a time to make excuses. And that it was important to join together in a clear-eyed way.”

As the president put it, Froman went on, “his cousin in Kenya cant find a job without paying a bribe, and that’s not the fault of the G-8. And when companies can’t operate without paying, in some parts of Africa, without paying the 25 percent fee off the top in bribes, that’s not colonialism.”

[ABC News Blog]

Scary Fundamentalist pegs the Burka Debate

Wow – an excellent, well-reasoned post on Burkas, human rights, religious freedom, and politician’s duties on matters of this nature:

Edit: I shared Scary’s post on Reddit, which is always seems to stir up good debate.

There are many arguments in support of banning the burka that, at first blush, are convincing. The burka is not proscribed by the Koran or mainstream Islam. Many consider the garment to be symbolic of oppression; the woman within has no identity, no contact with the outside world. Some call it a “prison”, enslaving its wearer to her husband. These are an affront to the values of Western nations, Canada included.

None of these arguments, though, present a transgression of recognized human rights as long as burka fashion is voluntary. In other words, if someone wants to wear it, why shouldn’t she (or even he) be allowed to? More importantly, if someone truly feels that they have a religious duty to wear it, then we also risk trampling on another freedom, that of religion…

…Sarkozy has the right to condemn the Burka, even when speaking as the representative of the French people. I would even argue that he has the duty, since a vast majority find the practice to be repulsive. He should not, however, seek to use the powers of the state to compel women to dress a certain way in public, contrary to their religious beliefs…

…For that would be forcibly taking these women from the only prison they know, and in the process subjecting all of us to a bigger prison – that of the nanny-state.

[Scary Fundamentalist]

Small Government vs. Smart Government: The New Conservatism

In a comment I made on yesterday’s “Banning Bottled Water” post, CWTF challenged my thinking on the Nanny State aspects of policy of this nature. In responding, I was finally able to elucidate why I think policy like banning bottled water is inherently conservative: I see something like banning bottled water as “conservative” because it uses a simple policy tweak today to offset a future policy nightmare (environmental degradation).

I’m thoroughly against the nanny state. But – I’m aslo for effective, lightweight policy making to achieve meaningful social goals that the market might otherwise disregard.

The bottom line is that the to-the-consumer cost of bottled water will never adequately reflect the externalities that stem from its production, transportation, and disposal of waste – thus an opportunity for policy. Similar situation with catalytic converters on cars, or low flow shower heads.

I know that policy-making that restricts choice doesn’t comfortably fit into small-c conservative ideology, but as I’ve noted elsewhere, I’d argue that were at the juncture where “conservatism” needs to replace small government with smart government that serves conservative goals better in the longer term.

That is to say, I see something like banning bottled water as inherently conservative because it uses a simple policy tweak today to offset a future policy nightmare (environmental degradation).


Easter Island and Canadian Healthcare Policy

The health research world is a-twitter today about the longevity boosting effects of a compound called Rapamycin. Hailing from the soil of Easter Island, Rapamycin significantly extends the lifespan of mice, and may do the same for humans. I imagine happenstance discoveries like this to be the tip of the iceberg for radical longevity therapies.

Which makes me wonder: how does our society and social infrastructure cope when, for example, people don’t retire until they are 80? Or when the retirement-to-death duration starts increasing by decades? I know from my studies of life insurance that rates, funding levels, etc. take into account a certain expectation of increasing longevity, but that expectation is based on the relatively conservative gains of the last few decades. Will the social net, financial, and healthcare industries be blindsided by science? Is there anyone in government thinking about these things?

Banning Bottled Water: Bundanoon leads the way

The small town of Bundanoon, Australia, has set a great policy precedent, banning bottled water within the town. Its not just the policy that’s great, but the way it was made – with the input of local residents and businesses – and they way in which the polic is being integrated at a municipal level – the ban is accompanied by the installation of water fountains. Green, progressive, community driven – great.