Apr

3

Matt Welch, editor of Reason Magazine, will be speaking on Thursday April 4, 2013. Usual place: 20 West 44th St, NY NY. First floor reading room. Start 7:30pm. All DailySpec readers are invited.


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  1. Ira Brody on April 7, 2013 8:05 pm

    Catching Up and a Suggestion for a Future Junto Speaker

    It has been awhile since I have been in touch. Currently, I reside in Ann Arbor, MI… “Go Blue.” As many are aware, my claim to fame is the fact that I have incredible taste in women who have horrible taste in men… so, once again I let my 70 year old hormones dictate and here I am with Professor Julie Chlebo.

    For the last few years, I have been waging an uphill battle to try to overturn the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 (NOTA)… an act that prevents the use of rewards or inducements to an individual who wishes to be compensated for relinquishing a body part in order to save another’s life. Like the Volstead Act, NOTA has caused many problems and solved none. Among them are: the loss of close to 5,000 lives a year from End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD); the creation of an overseas organ black market that more often than not results in the disappearance of people from impoverished third world societies where the poor and unknown become a source of harvesting body parts; and a drain on the United States healthcare system as the annual cost of maintaining an individual on immunosuppressive drugs after transplant is $30,000 as opposed to $91,000 a year for dialysis . There are currently 97,000 Americans with ESRD in immediate need of a kidney and approximately 450,000 Americans on dialysis… many of which will eventually need a transplant. At $34 billion a year, dialysis, as an industry constitutes approximately one-sixth of Medicare’s annual budget.

    I have spoken to healthcare insurers who would welcome offering a compensation or reimbursement package to those who would be willing to take the minimal risk of (1 death in approximately 3,500) of giving up a kidney. Though they do not endorse a free market system for reimbursement, they could support a regulated payment of $50,000 or even $100,000. This was based upon their cost savings… a savings that could average about $750,000 per patient over the life of the transplanted kidney.

    So, why hasn’t this happened? In its simplest form: the “left” and the majority of America’s medical ethicists believe that offering a payment for a kidney is coercion. That only the poor would come forward and that these people are not capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. That they would spend their new found dollars recklessly and ultimately end up in the same place they started… minus a kidney. It doesn’t take a “brain surgeon” or should I say “transplant surgeon” to figure out what segment of the population would most embrace this offer… what bothers me is that a self- proclaimed benevolent aristocracy is attempting to determine how people should spend their money.

    Then there are those on the “right” side of the aisle… politicos who have forgotten their “free market” roots and replaced it with a religious fundamentalism that has determined that we do not own our bodies. To endorse or embrace the concept of “self-ownership” opens a Pandora’s box that includes legalized prostitution, the use of drugs, and who knows what. I especially like the “who knows what.”

    I recently returned from a conference sponsored by the Duke Law School entitled “Organs and Inducements” http://marketdesigner.blogspot.com/2013/03/organs-and-inducements-at-duke.html. After 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Alvin Roth consented to be one of the participants, I became a last minute entry as somebody, had to be the dumbest guy in the room… a title that I have held with pride and distinction throughout my life. What most do not understand or appreciate, is that I have made a living off this… and a damned good one at that.

    At an early age, I realized that greatness would escape me. As hard as I tried, I could never make the starting team. That was the bad news. The good news was I usually made the “varsity”. I got to wear the uniform and the perks that went with it on and off the field. This pattern would follow me throughout my life. I would succeed at being the “worst of the best.” As long as I did not let my ego get in the way, life would be smooth sailing. I would never be perceived as a threat.

    So here I am at “Organs and Inducements”, the only participant that did not have to prepare a paper or be the lead commentator on a paper that was being presented. It is sort of like being a minister without portfolio. The good news was the fact that I did not have to critique Al Roth’s presentation. That honor was given to no one.

    As two Jewish boys who had grown up in New York, Al Roth and I hit it off pretty quickly as the focus of our conversation revolved around egg crèmes and whether it’s the oil, the temperature, or the crinkle cut of Nathan’s french fries that determines its unique and unquestionable taste. I asked Al what was the most interesting thing that had happened to him since winning the Nobel Prize. He smiled and laughingly told me that he had gotten a call from the principal of Van Buren High School in Queens… the high school that he had attended as a boy. Van Buren, like so many other NYC high schools had changed over the years… it was on the list of those that was on the verge of closing because of academic ineptitude. Roth listened to the principal as he stated his case for an appearance and motivational / inspirational talk to the student body by Van Buren’s only Nobel Prize winner. Before, the principal made the ask, Al asked him if he was aware of the fact that he had dropped out of Van Buren and did not receive a high school diploma until years later. He said that the only message that he could deliver was, “How to Drop Out of High School and Still Win a Nobel Prize.” The principal said he would get back to him.

    What was most interesting about the conference attendees was that all of these esteemed academics except for one were either in favor or neutral in regard to the idea of “Inducements for Organs.” The only academic attending that had actually put herself and her career on the line through previous actions rather than academic rhetoric was Sally Satel, M.D. Sally is a psychiatrist and a kidney recipient who currently works for the American Enterprise Institute. I was honored and privileged to co-author an article with her that appeared in the WSJ. I believe that she would make an excellent speaker for a future Junto. If interested, I can give you her contact information.

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