Last month, New Yorker Levy Izhak Rosenbaum pled guilty in federal court to the crime of facilitating illegal kidney transplants. It has been deemed the first proven case of black market organ trafficking in the United States. His lawyers argue that his lawbreaking was benevolent: "The transplants were successful and the donors and recipients are now leading full and healthy lives."
Indeed, why are organ sales illegal? Donors of blood, semen, and eggs, and volunteers for medical trials, are often compensated. Why not apply the same principle to organs?
The very idea of legalization might sound gruesome to most people, but it shouldn't, especially since research shows it would save lives. In the United States, where the 1984 National Organ Transplantation Act prohibits compensation for organ donating, there are only about 20,000 kidneys every year for the approximately 80,000 patients on the waiting list. In 2008, nearly 5,000 died waiting.