Dec 212014


The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than one human organ is illegally purchased every hour worldwide.  During that same year, more than 11,000 black market operations are performed, some in respected and well-known hospital settings.  Of all organs transplanted both legally and illegally, approximately 75% are for kidneys.

Black market traders and illegal organ traffickers prey upon poverty-stricken people in numerous countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America.  In many prosperous countries such a us America, desperate patients with financial means make contact with human organ brokers.  Many of these traders of ‘bodily goods’, located in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Israel, and Eastern Europe, find willing donors who are typically impoverished, unemployed, and looking to pay off debt.

Organ brokers promise these donors payment, iPads, and expense-free vacations to the United States.  In many cases, donors typically don’t get the money they were promised. Instead, they are plagued with serious health problems that will prevent them from working.  They also face much shame and depression from their communities.  According to watch-groups Organ failure solutions, Organs watch, and ESOT; the typical organ donor is a male of about 28.9 years old with an annual income of $480, while the typical recipient is a male of about 48.1 years old with an annual income of $53,000.

Prices paid to organ donors vary widely on type and location.  Kidneys range from $1,000 in India and $2,700 in Turkey to upwards of $150,000 in certain parts of Europe.  Livers range from $4,000 to $157,000, corneas average $24,000, unfertilized eggs $12,500, skin averages $10 per square inch, and bones/ligaments go as high as $5,500.

surgeonmoneyIn many cases, brokers are nationals from other countries that live in Europe or the United States.  To get around the illegality of organ-selling, they forge documents indicating that the recipient and seller are related, claiming the act is a family donation.  Most of these surgeries take place in foreign hospitals that turn a blind eye to organ trafficking.

An estimated 10,000 organ transplants are believed to take place in China alone every year.  Up to a reported 7,000 of these organs are harvested from either unwilling or executed Chinese prisoners.  Their country alone has 1,500,000 million citizens waiting for an organ donation.

As of this year, there are nearly 118,000 people waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the U.S., 85,000 of which are potential kidney recipients.  The wait for a healthy and legitimate donor can be up to three years, with 6,000 of these people dying each year.  This is why many diseased patients end up going to the black market.

Even with donors who freely elect to contribute their organs upon death, the World Health Organization estimates that only ten percent of the world’s needs for organ transplantation are being met.  According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the process of organ donation and transplantation can save as many as eight lives.  But there simply aren’t enough healthy donors and organs in supply to meet the growing demand of those in need.

For this reason, I subscribe to the notion that, starting with the United States, there should be a legalized system allowing for-profit organ donation.  This way, the families of those who died and donated, or selected charities, at least have the opportunity to receive compensation for these life-giving gifts. 

There are two human drives at play here, both very strong and symbiotic with one another.  The first is the desire to survive and the second is the strong incentive of money.  Death and money are great motivators, especially if they can be tied together with a supply-and-demand system in a capitalistic society.

Is it any different than an auto parts store expecting payment from a garage before it provides the radiator?  Would we expect Pep Boys to give it away for free? If such laws were instituted today, wouldn’t we expect that customers with inoperable cars, or garage owners to directly or indirectly, start stealing parts from existing cars?

And before people get sanctimonious on me, let’s not forget the people who receive these organs get the gift of life – so they win.  Plus, BMW-driving surgeons, well-paid anesthesiologists, and corporate/church-based hospitals are all paid too.  The only one who isn’t paid here is the auto parts store, errr…the provider of the organ, without which this system isn’t ‘operable’.

If donating organs is such a humanitarian act, then why don’t the doctors and hospitals regularly donate the surgeries and the facilities needed to make transplantation possible?  Not just on rare occasions, when they can get good publicity from it.  The simple fact is that motives are rarely unselfish – and we need to see a for-profit organ donation system as good for all parties involved.

Every day, 150,000 die in the world.  What if they now chose to donate, strictly from financial motivation?  Even if half of these people were not suitable donors, that still leaves up to 600,000 people waiting for all types of transplants that could be helped or saved.  THIS IS ONLY JUST WITH A SINGLE DAY OF DONATION!

So what’s holding us back?  Bioethics?  Cut the bullshit already.

Sure, it would raise the amount health insurers and Medicare/Medicaid would have to pay out.  So our health insurance and taxes would rise…except if insurers and medical professionals were made to get a sizable haircut.  Not fair?  For saving human lives?  Where are your ethics now?  Hiding behind your million dollar retirement accounts, country clubs, fancy trips and children’s private schooling?

The fact is that when organ supply increases, private costs for these healthy organs go down.  A tremendous amount of lives are saved.  Organ brokers are called upon less and less.  And there are a lot of people that would have the money to pay.  And best of all, people could still choose to donate and NOT get paid.  They can choose to be ‘ethical’, but it’s their choice – rather than being foisted upon them.

With much of the world in poverty or lower-income status, why shouldn’t willing buyers have their money paired up with a dying individual who wishes to leave some financial benefits to their friends, family, or charity?  Plus, they’re dead – so what good are healthy organs that stay in a body that stays in the earth?

Why not create a well-run and regulated middle ground that establishes safe programs, protects donors wanting to receive compensation, protects organ recipients who are happy to make such payment, and provides safety in both the determination of usable organs and their surgical environments and outcomes?

How do the poor afford organs?

Well, how do they afford them now?  They don’t – because they are put on a list where how much money you have doesn’t make any difference.  None of that will change, except if there are more donated organs. Then there are less people on the waiting lists and less time to wait.

Let’s get past ourselves here…and start saving lives.

Dec 092014

ralph-baer-02_wide-5c1a8361ab88d5406b9b2e3fd3ea5b895240ff16-s800-c85Yesterday brought bad news as Ralph Baer, widely regarded as the ‘Father of Video Games’ passed away.  He was 92 years old, and unlike other inventors, was able to see the unfolding of what began as a simple experiment nearly 50 years ago.

Baer, who manage to escape Nazi Germany with his family in 1938, wound up in Brooklyn, New York.  At age 16, he took a correspondence course on how to fix televisions and radios, which would prove most helpful down the road.   Later in 1943, he helped write plans for the D-Day invasion, and served under General Dwight Eisenhower.

After the way, Baer went to college on the GI bill and wound up getting one of the first degrees in television engineering.  He started work in 1951 for Loral, building televisions.  It was at that time that he came up with the idea of putting games on television sets – an idea that met with little support.  It would be another 15 years when Baer again brought the idea up to his new employer, who game him $2,500 to try to make it work.

In 1969, Baer, who would go on to receive 150 patents, recalled that in an early meeting with a patent examiner and his attorney to patent his new video game console, “within 15 minutes,  every examiner on the floor of that building was in that office wanting to play the game.”  This brown box system would eventually be licensed by Magnavox in 1971, and in 1972 would become the Odyssey ITL 200, the first commercially available video game system.SONY DSC

I recalled my father bringing home this system when I was just five years old in 1973.  I think he paid under $100 for it, and it came with a number of available games on very thin printer board cards, which slid into the top.

Such games includes football, invasion, baseball and haunted house. The latter requiring a plastic sheet that was taped and hung on the television screen.  I played that haunted house game for hours on end.

Baer would go on to to invent the electronic memory game Simon through Milton Bradley.  As for the Odyssey, it sold nearly 350,000 units in 3 years, but made the bulk of its money in defending the related patents against the likes of Atari, Coleco, Mattel and Activision.  Magnavox won every single infringement case over a 20-year period, which leading to them collecting more than $100 million.

In time Baer would go onto to receive the National Medal of Technology from President George Bush in 2006, as well as an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.  The man, quite simply, started an entire industry from an idea that he would not let go of.

Take a read on the internet, and you will find comments on popular tech and gaming websites carrying his story.  The great thing is that gamers from thirty years ago and today, all people have nothing but nice things to say about Ralph Baer.  In fact, one commenter noted, “Congratulations Ralph – you’ve made it to the next level.”

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