SHOULD THERE BE A MARKET IN ORGANS

On April 12, 2001, the front page of The Boston Globe ran the headline “How a Mother’s Love Helped Save Two Lives.” The newspaper told the story of Susan Stephens, a woman whose son needed a kidney transplant. When the doctor learned that the mother’s kidney was not compatible, he proposed a novel solution: If Stephens donated one of her kidneys to a stranger, her son would move to the top of the kidney waiting list. The mother accepted the deal, and soon two patients had the transplant they were waiting for The ingenuity of the doctor’s proposal and the nobility of the mother’s act cannot be doubted. But the story raises some intriguing questions. If the mother could trade a kidney for a kidney, would the hospital allow her a kidney for an expensive, experimental cancer treatment that she could not afford otherwise? Should she be allowed to exchange her kidney for free tuition for her son at the hospital’s medical school? Should she be able to sell her kidney so she can use the cash to trade in her old Chevy for a new Lexus?