A Massachusetts bill could allow prisoners to exchange their organs for their freedom.

Doctors routinely ask donors about their health, well-being, and ability to care for themselves and whether they smoke or take recreational drugs. These factors affect not only whether their organs are suitable for donation, but also how well they are likely to recover from the procedure.

“I worry that an incarcerated person won’t feel comfortable giving me a full and honest story,” Rees says. “When a person is imprisoned, it is difficult to evaluate his lifestyle and he cannot make decisions freely.”

There are other problems with the bill. The apparent aim is to increase the number of living organ donations from people in prison. We know very well that these people are vulnerable groups, such as those born into poverty or abused as children. We also know that ethnic and racial minorities are overrepresented in prisons. Just over 30% of US prisoners are Hispanic, and 38% are black.

“It can be known that he collects from black bodies. [people] Giving to others,” says Bell. “There may be a question of exploitation.”

State Representative Carlos Gonzalez, one of the bill’s sponsors, argued that “expanding the donor pool is an effective way to increase access to life-saving treatment for Black and Latino family members and friends.”

It is true that people from racial and ethnic minorities have a harder time getting the organs they need. In the year In 2020, for example, the number of transplants performed on whites is 47.6% of what is now expected. The figure was only 27.7% for black people. But there are other ways to inform minority communities about organ donation and encourage informed decisions. They should not involve commercial entities for the sake of independence.

Which brings us back to the original point. How much are our organs worth? How is the decision? Is a kidney worth a year of independence? Is bone marrow less expensive? “How do you decide the calculation here?” Bell is surprised. “Is that really a fair exchange?”

Fortunately, even if the bill is passed, it doesn’t mean that such transactions will never happen. Every organ donation must be approved by a medical and ethics team, which includes someone whose sole role is to advocate for the donor. It’s unlikely that everyone would be comfortable with this type of exchange, Reese says. I think this is probably for the best.

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