Latest Articles


22.10.2014
Nicole Gnesotto

There's no such thing as political globalization

How to explain the international explosion of tribal, mafia-style, dictatorial and terrorist violence? Nicole Gnesotto says it's down to the lack of "strategic globalization" on the political field, in sharp contrast to economic globalization's triumph. [ more ]

22.10.2014
Fréderic Neyrat

Critique of geo-constructivism

20.10.2014
Geert Lovink, César Rendueles

We do not prefer Facebook

15.10.2014
Eurozine Review

This revolutionary moment

New Issues


20.10.2014

Esprit | 10/2014

15.10.2014

Transit | 45 (2014)

Maidan - Die unerwartete Revolution [Maidan - The unexpected revolution]

Eurozine Review


15.10.2014
Eurozine Review

This revolutionary moment

"Index" looks into the future of journalism; "Transit" keeps alive the memory of the Maidan; in "Syn og Segn", climate optimist Kristin Halvorsen calls for a global price tag on pollution; "Kulturos barai" talks to urban ecologist Warren Karlenzig; "Rigas Laiks" congratulates Reykjavik's first anarchist mayor; "Merkur" discusses photography and the definition of artistic value; "La Revue nouvelle" braces itself for more European political deadlock; "Kritiikki" profiles Russian émigré author Sergei Dovlatov; and "Nova Istra" remembers the Croatian émigré poet Viktor Vida.

17.09.2014
Eurozine Review

Independence in an age of interdependence

03.09.2014
Eurozine Review

Was Crimea a preliminary exercise?

06.08.2014
Eurozine Review

What are you doing here?

23.07.2014
Eurozine Review

The world's echo system



http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-05-02-newsitem-en.html
http://mitpress.mit.edu/0262025248
http://www.eurozine.com/about/who-we-are/contact.html
http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2009-12-02-newsitem-en.html

My Eurozine


If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Articles
Share |

Buying a kidney

Thousands of Europeans die annually waiting for a new kidney, heart or liver. At the same time, the black-market trade in organs is thriving, as a recent scandal in Germany has shown. So should organ trading be legalized? Slavenka Drakulic, herself a two-time kidney transplant patient, argues the pros and cons.

That morning, a telephone call cut my life in half – into a life before the kidney transplant and a life after it. It was 16 February 1986, a cold and stormy day, when the call from Boston's New England Deaconess Hospital came through. I was 37 years old, divorced, with a teenage daughter. I was living in Yugoslavia and after six years of surviving on a haemodialysis machine, connected to it for four hours every second day, I had been wondering if there would ever be a transplant.

Eighteen years later, in 2004, I got another call, this time from Rhode Island Hospital. After the rejection of the first kidney and another four years of waiting on machines – another chance! And a very special one at that: this time I was to receive a kidney from an altruistic, non-related, living donor.

I was shocked when I heard that. An unknown person who gives away her kidney to a stranger! How is that possible? Later, after the surgery, I met my donor Christine Swenson, a young nurse and mother of two. I asked her what her motivation was. Christine replied that she had no particular reason except the wish to help. People tend to assume almost automatically that such an act of extreme goodness must be motivated by money – or religious beliefs. Neither applied in Christine's case. Having written a book about people like Christine, I know that they are ordinary people and that is precisely why their gifts are so precious.



Why aren't there enough organs to meet the need for transplants? Why are people sentenced to premature death because they have to wait too long? In Germany, a recent scandal involving manipulated medical records revealed the extent of the illegal trade in kidneys and other organs. As a story in Der Spiegel showed, both the seller and the buyer of the kidney can be regarded as victims. A Russian immigrant in Israel, Vera Shevdko, sold her kidney for 8100 euros to an elderly German man named Walter. Vera is a victim of poverty with whom it is easy to sympathize. Yet Walter, the buyer, is also a victim: a victim of an inefficient health system. If you are told that you have only a few months to live if you don't get a transplant – and you don't have any chance of getting one – wouldn't you look for another solution, even if it is illegal? There is not one single patient on a waiting list who has not entertained the idea of buying an organ. The tampering with waiting lists in respectable German hospitals just confirms the scope of the problem.

Europe's compulsory health insurance system is something to be proud of. However, that doesn't mean that it works perfectly. In Europe, healthcare is institutionalized rather than privatized. On the other hand, patients here expect much more of medical institutions than, for example, in the US. Since organs can be harvested only from a brain-dead person on a life-support machine or from a living donor, there aren't enough organs to go around. Why, then, is there no legal market for organs? Rare cases of corruption and trafficking reveal what everybody knows: the market already exists. But it is a black market, in private hands and uncontrolled. Wouldn't it make sense to legalize it?

I find this question legitimate. In the last decade, much has been written on the subject, especially in the US. The core of the controversy has been well described by Sally Satel, an advocate of a legalized market, a medical doctor and a transplant patient herself. Is it really more ethical, she asks, to die while waiting for an organ than to buy one? The arguments against marketing organs are well known. Above all they express concern for the poor, the most likely sellers. Pro-market advocates counter that, if controlled by the state, donors could be compensated with free education or free medical care.

Numerous websites now act as a source for people seeking organs. One such is www.matchingdonors.com – here, however, both the donor and the recipient must sign a legally binding document stipulating that no money or other benefits have been exchanged before the transplant is carried out. America is indeed different from Europe in this respect: there seems to be less suspicion there.

Would a market for organs even be possible within Europe's socialized healthcare system? The European system is devised to benefit everyone equally, not only those with money; this principle is what makes it a just one. To introduce money into this kind of system would run counter to the humanistic tradition and ideals that distinguish Europe from other parts of the world.

However, the price is high. In Germany alone, almost three thousand people die every year waiting for a transplant. These figures show how necessary it is to introduce measures within the existing possibilities. More investment in transplant medicine will reduce the need for a black market. But this would require additional effort involving the whole of society. This will be impossible unless it is clear to everyone that the alternative is not only a miserable life on machines, but also the premature death of many patients. The new draft law in Germany includes two key changes: there would be no need to ask relatives of a deceased person for permission for a donation; and the waiting time for a patient would start from the first day of dialysis. If the law gets passed, it would probably shorten the waiting lists considerably. But it would also be necessary to introduce more rigorous means of control to avoid corruption. Recent scandals should set the alarm bells ringing and can serve as an argument in favour of such changes. But the influence of the pharmaceutical lobbies, which profit from the existence of expensive dialysis, ought not to be underestimated. One patient on haemodialysis costs around 80,000 euros a year – a transplant costs less than half that.

Once you have received your kidney, nobody asks what happens then. Do you live long and happily ever after? A lot of care and effort is needed to balance medication in such a way as to prevent an organ from being rejected. Here, the Germans have a remarkable record: if you do end up getting a kidney, you are pretty safe. This is no small achievement. As a patient who has had two transplants, I know this only too well.


 



Published 2012-09-07


Original in English
First published in Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.08.2012 (German version); Eurozine (English version)

© Slavenka Drakulic
© Eurozine
 

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Focal points     click for more

Russia in global dialogue

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Ukraine in focus

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/publicsphere.html
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

The ends of democracy

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/democracy.html
At a time when the global pull of democracy has never been stronger, the crisis of democracy has become acute. Eurozine has collected articles that make the problems of democracy so tangible that one starts to wonder if it has a future at all, as well as those that return to the very basis of the principle of democracy. [more]

The EU: Broken or just broke?

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
Brought on by the global economic recession, the eurocrisis has been exacerbated by serious faults built into the monetary union. Contributors discuss whether the EU is not only broke, but also broken -- and if so, whether Europe's leaders are up to the task of fixing it. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Dessislava Gavrilova, Jo Glanville et al.
The role of literature houses in protecting the space for free expression

http://www.eurozine.com/timetotalk/european-literature-houses-meeting-2014/
This summer, Time to Talk partner Free Word, London hosted a debate on the role that literature houses play in preserving freedom of expression both in Europe and globally. Should everyone get a place on the podium? Also those representing the political extremes? [more]

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
Simon Garnett
Britain flouts the European Court of Justice

http://www.eurozine.com/blog/
The UK has passed legislation on data retention that flouts European concerns about privacy. The move demonstrates extraordinary arrogance not only towards the Court of Justice of the European Union but towards the principle of parliamentary deliberation in Britain, writes Simon Garnett. [more]

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

William E Scheuerman
Civil disobedience for an age of total surveillance
The case of Edward Snowden

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-04-18-scheuerman-en.html
Earlier civil disobedients hinted at our increasingly global condition. Snowden takes it as a given. But, writes William E. Scheuerman, in lieu of an independent global legal system in which Snowden could defend his legal claims, the Obama administration should treat him with clemency. [more]

Literature     click for more

Olga Tokarczuk
A finger pointing at the moon

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-01-16-tokarczuk-en.html
Our language is our literary destiny, writes Olga Tokarczuk. And "minority" languages provide a special kind of sanctuary too, inaccessible to the rest of the world. But, there again, language is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond itself and starts to create an alternative world. [more]

Piotr Kiezun, Jaroslaw Kuisz
Literary perspectives special: Witold Gombrowicz

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-08-16-kuisz-en.html
The recent publication of the private diary of Witold Gombrowicz provides unparalleled insight into the life of one of Poland's great twentieth-century novelists and dramatists. But this is not literature. Instead: here he is, completely naked. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/literaryperspectives.html
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/europetalkstoeurope.html
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Law and Border. House Search in Fortress Europe
The 26th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Conversano, 3-6 October 2014

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/conversano2014.html
Taking place in southern Italy, not far from Lampedusa, this year's Eurozine conference will address both EU refugee and immigration policies and intellectual partnerships across the Mediterranean. Confirmed speakers include Italian investigative journalist Fabrizio Gatti and Moroccan feminist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rita El Khayat. [more]

Multimedia     click for more

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/multimedia.html
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]


powered by publick.net