Organ Transplants and Scarcity, Innovation, and Politics
David T. Jones, 20 Feb 17
       

The practice of organ transplantation opened a Pandora's Box of difficulties, including forced organ harvesting

Doctors carry fresh organs for transplant at a hospital in Henan Province, China, on Aug. 16, 2012. (Screenshot via Sohu.com)

We all want to live a long time.  And in vigorous good health while doing so.

Modern society and modern medical technology has transformed the prospect of a Biblical “three score and ten” lifetime, which used to be unlikely, if not unusual, into a strong, normal possibility.

But getting there is not always “half the fun.”  And sustaining life after 70 requires more and more (often high tech) maintenance.

We are outliving our design specifications.  Our organs—heart, kidney, eyes, lungs, liver are subject to wear-and-tear.  Sometimes the damage is genetic; sometimes self-inflicted (smoking, alcohol).  But the result is life shortening, and the search for life-extenders is relentless:  first palliative (stop smoking/drinking), then surgical (heart by-pass), and finally heroic (organ replacement).

The first heart transplant was performed in Cape Town, South Africa in December 1967 by Christiaan Barnard.  For those of us media-engaged 50 years ago, the operation was miraculous.  But it opened the classic “Pandora’s box” of complexities.

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