Friday, October 23, 2015

Transplanted Notions

  I held my latest youth chess tournament on Saturday. I had another great turnout and my self signup feature is working excellently. I was able to watch some of my students play and I was lucky to talk to some chess parents I only get to see once or twice a year. One of the parents and I got talking about politics and I was asked what I thought of the candidates. I mentioned that I appreciated Bernie Sanders' sincerity, Hillary Clinton would make the most competent President, I couldn’t imagine a President Trump being able to govern but many thought the same about Ronald Reagan and that my personal favorite would be Rick Santorum because I liked the way he discussed Pittsburgh sports on 1460-KXNO four years ago.

  I’m pretty eclectic in my political preferences but to me if you are who you say you are that’s really all I can ask of anyone. When the chess parent asked me who I was going to vote for I said that I wasn’t going to vote for any of the candidates but if I could sell my vote I would. Like most people the chess parent rolled his eyes but once I explained my position he understood where I was coming from.

  Now that the Iowa caucuses are just a few months away I’m started to be inundated with phone calls and television ads trying to convince me to vote for this candidate, that candidate, or the other candidate. A nice looking aristocrat named Jeb is on my television saying that he has a plan to create lots of good paying jobs, while Donald will make America great, and Bernie will look out for me and not the special interests. As I was writing this I was interrupted by a phone call asking me for my opinion on the election. Luckily I managed to dodge the phone interview by answering his first question (are you affiliated with or employed by a media, marketing, or journalistic company?) with the information that I am in fact an award winning journalist. The phone interviewer thanked me for my time without even waiting to hear about how I won chess journalism award for this blog five years ago!

  Everyone wants my vote but they are paying call centers, marketing companies, websites, newspapers, magazines, and television stations to get it. If I want groceries I go to the grocery store and not a call center or a marketing company. If I want insurance I go to an insurance salesman and not a television station. But if a politician wants my vote they don’t go to me for it, instead paying media outlets to convince me to vote for them.

  I’ve discussed this before and I think it’s only a matter of time before everyone is allowed to buy and sell votes just like any other valuable commodity. I noticed the controversy about the clandestine video of Planned Parenthood officers discussing harvesting and selling tissue and organs from aborted fetuses. Most people think this is the biggest scandal ever with the dividing line being whether the scandal is the selling of baby parts (like this opinion piece) or whether the scandal was the editing of otherwise innocent videos to discredit Planned Parenthood (like this opinion piece).

  I don’t know all the facts (although when people proclaim their innocence by saying they have ‘done nothing illegal’ it makes me wonder) but the thing that struck me is that aborted fetal tissue is valuable in the first place. This article from the Washington Post says that 2,000 cells from a fetal liver can be had from StemExpress for between $1800 and $2000. I’m not joking – StemExpress is a real company (here is their website). I went to to get a catalog but stopped short of signing up for an account even though I can get 10% off my first order of $1,000 or more. Regardless of whether you think abortion a women’s health issue or the killing of the unborn or if Planned Parenthood is a provider of valuable services or a purveyor of infanticide one fact is indisputable – organizations like StemExpress and Planned Parenthood get a lot of money for these cells while the original ‘owner’ gets nothing.

  I had the television on as I was looking at the products offered by I was looking at their offerings in Bone Marrow and Maternal Blood when a commercial came on encouraging me to be an organ donor. I’ve never filled out an organ donor card although if I ever find myself in need of an organ I hope someone else has filled one out.

  Since I just discovered that fetal liver cells goes for around a dollar per cell my mind was wondering what a liver transplant would cost so I went looking on the internet. I found a site called with a 2011 transplant price sheet and found that the estimated cost of a liver transplant in 2011 was $577,100. I found it interesting that while a heart transplant cost $997,700 and a lung transplant cost $561,200, a heart-lung transplant cost $1,148,400 which is a savings of $410,500 over having the procedures done separately. Other interesting tidbits were an intestine transplant cost more than a heart-lung transplant ($1,206,800) and at $262,900 the kidney transplant was the most economical transplant by $26,500 over the pancreas transplant.

  I knew that while it is perfectly legal to donate organs it is illegal to sell your organs for transplantation. What I didn’t realize was that this was only in place since 1984’s National Organ Transplant Act. The Act makes any organ transfer that affects interstate commerce punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 or up to years in prison or both.

  I think it would be OK for people to sell their organs except I don't want to have to pay for welfare and healthcare for one-kidney Karla or one-lung Larry while they spend their organ money on liquor, cigarettes, and Little Debbie's. But when an organ donor dies and their organs are procured for transplant why does every one from the company that procures the organ to the hospital to the physician to the drug companies make money on these organ transfers while the donor’s family gets nothing. The cost sheet shows that it costs $60,000 and up to procure the organ, $90,000 to $750,000 for the hospital stay during the transplant $17,000 and up for the physician, and $20,000+ for immune-suppressant drugs. If the organ can be donated why aren’t these services also donated and if these services aren’t donated shouldn’t the families of the organ donors be compensated also? I'm not saying hospitals, drug companies, doctors, and procurement specialists shouldn't make money but without the organ (donated or not) they have nothing to offer in the way of transplants yet the organ supplier's family is shut out of the money.

  Votes, stem cells, and vital organs - three commodities where everyone makes a profit except for the owners of the commodities themselves. I don’t know why I get so worked up about stuff like this but I do. Maybe it’s because so few people see the infringement not being able to sell what everyone else is making money off of. It looks like the only way I’ll be able to cash in will be to write the 21st century ‘1984’ with the organ donor, stem cell, and voting police instead of Big Brother.