Imagine a world where patients in need could pay for immediate access to organs.

At the 18th annual Raymond W. Waggoner lecture on Ethics and Values in Medicine, Robert Sade, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, argued for the legalization of compensation for organs before a crowd of roughly 50 people at the University Hospital.

Sade spent most of his lecture discussing the misconceptions associated with organ donation, noting that paying donors for their organs is widely believed to be unethical and immoral. Organ donation levels have stagnated in recent years, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, in part because there is no compensation for organs, he said.

“The rate of growth of the waiting list for organs is 3.5 times faster than the rate of increase of deceased donors,” Sade said. “While the waiting list and number of deaths continue to grow, the number of donors has essentially stabilized over the last seven years. This accounts for what has come to be known as the organ gap.”

Sade blames the National Organ Transplantation Act of 1984, which made compensation for organs a felony, for the lack of organ donations in recent years.

“Over the last 30 years, the only motivation that is legally accepted is altruism; that is, providing organs for no other reason than the satisfaction of doing something good,” he said.

Toward the end of his lecture, Sade touched upon the ethical standards of physicians, saying that the most critical ethical principle of any physician is trustworthiness given the intimacy of relationships with patients.

Before the lecture, Sade said decisions regarding end-of-life care were some of the most difficult he faced as a physician.

“One difficult problem that still is a problem for me is when you’re taking a patient who’s sliding downhill and getting sicker and sicker, and trying to decide when is the right time to discontinue life support,” Sade said. “Is it ok to help that patient who’s suffering badly and is not going to survive?”

Sade also offered some advice to pre-medicine students: the major you choose as an undergraduate does not make any difference whatsoever to medical school admissions officers.

“People who major outside of the sciences, (those) who major in history or art or economics or philosophy, do just as well in medical school as people who major in chemistry or biology,” Sade said. My best advice to pre-medical students is to major in whatever it is that turns you on, and not necessarily in the sciences.”

After the lecture, Nursing senior Kim Siebert said the idea of monetary compensation for organ donors is still questionable in her mind.

“I think it’s difficult because if you were to try and put a price on an organ, it’s not going to be easy. It’s the same thing as trying to put a price on a life.” Siebert said. “There are so many different situational things that you can think of, like why did that person need an organ, or how did the person giving an organ feel about it?”

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