Should You Be Allowed to Sell Your Kidneys?

Should we be allowed to sell our kidneys? What about sex? How about our blood?! Should there be limits on what we can and can’t buy? How can we decide what can be for sale on a market – are there things that we shouldn’t allow to be purchased?

In this video, Professor Peter Jaworski asks students at Red Square at Georgetown University for their opinion on what should and shouldn’t be off limits – and the results might surprise you.


  1. Jake Olson

    It appears that all those who responded were highly influenced by social norms and existing availability of products or services on the market in the United States. A massage involves more touching than a hug and can be more intimate yet no one said massages should be illegal. Also, I don’t understand why the male college student thinks that “heavily taxing” prostitution would make it safer ? 

  2. Lukas Koube

    right now, prostitutes have no legal recourse. if it was legal, a prostitute could seek restitution from the courts or call the cops if something bad was occurring. this is line of thinking behind why legalizing prostitution will make it safer. 

  3. Andremaia

    As long it is not causing damage to others, you should be able to choose what you do with your body.

  4. Richard Backhurst

    If you haven’t already you should read “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill. He had a very similar view to that

  5. Richard Backhurst

    I think that things like Hair and Kidney and Blood shouldn’t be up for sale and should be on a donation basis (like in the UK).Otherwise I fear that it could lead to cases where people have to sell their organs in order to put food on the table to feed their families, or gangs kidnapping people to get their blood or kidneys. If it is on a donation basis people donate because they want to, not because they feel they are forced to

  6. Derek Lee

    So, in general I’m in favor of selling organs (even fairly vital ones like your lungs) but there is a major issue that has to be overcome if we are to allow organ sales: exploitation. There are a lot of different variations of exploitation (and I would love to see a learn liberty video on the different definitions) but it is generally accepted outside of libertarian circles that exploitation is possible even if both parties contractually agree to a sale. If one party is in a significantly worse state, or does not have access to adequate information, or would not make the same sale under “normal” circumstances one can argue that their participation in a sale is coerced or exploitative. It might even be possible that this exploitation occurs when both parties are unaware. 

    Why is this relevant? Think about what what Richard said. Imagine a world where a homeless person had the ability to sell their organs. This person, given what might be considered normal circumstances, might be very willing to sell their organs. Furthermore, this person probably does not have access (unless there is some central body that provides this access) to all of the information on the damaging effects of selling their organ. If they had access to that information, they may very well demand a higher price for their organs. However, since they do not they sell their organ at a price that they would not have agreed upon otherwise (similar to someone who sells a farm, unaware that there is an oil field below, when an oil company has figured it out). There seems to be something wrong with this, mainly because most people assume exploitation is inherently bad. This may or may not be the case, but exploitation of this sort might not be correctable with a straight market approach. 
  7. drew.blacker

    Overall, my intuition generally says that having markets in just about anything is good, but there are a couple requirements that need to be met.

    (1) full information is readily available to buyer and seller: this enables people to make decisions on what they believe is good for themselves and how engaging in the particular transaction would effect them. (2) every transaction is mutually voluntary: this ensures that, based on the judgment determined in (1), everyone believes they are benefiting from the transaction.  And (3) reprisal for deception (if the info in (1) turns out to be bogus): this is necessary to keep the markets honest in the information provided in (1) – and therefore trustworthy in the benefit sought in (2).
  8. drew.blacker


    I agree that its nice when people donate things, but I don’t see how there being an open market for organs would compel people to participate in them.  Besides, if someone wants to find a price to sell their organs such that they would actually put food on the table, it’s more likely they fare better in a black market where prices are naturally higher than in a legal one.  And there may already be a black organ market in Europe where people are kidnapped for organs.  If there were a legal market, however, its lower prices (compared to the black market) would probably make the vast majority of these stolen organs not worth the trouble because those demanding the organs could get them for a lower price in the legal market anyway.
    Your thoughts?
  9. Ted

    I don’t think my vote should be for sale, because I am compromising my actual beliefs for money.  So along that line I don’t think lying for money is okay either.  The value of what I say transcends money.  I think sex shouldn’t be for sale on markets because the value of sex transcends money.  Sex is meant to express real commitment and when two people have sex a bond is created through the chemicals that fire in the brain in order to bind you to that person.  It’s a huge gift to people who are committed to each other that brings them even closer.  Casually saying I’ll give you something that valuable for money is a violation of the purpose of sex.  It’s just like selling my vote would be a violation of the purpose of voting.  It’s such a bad a deal that a market shouldn’t exist for it.  Kidneys I think is a little more tricky.  I agree with a previous commenter exploitation would be a big big issue.     

    Ultimately though the question has to be asked how are we going to define right and wrong?  That is basically what the questions he raised are asking.  He asks, “How can we decide what can be for sale on a market – are there things that we shouldn’t allow to be purchased?”

    My answer is definitely yes.  The basic reason why is that if an action is central to who someone is, then that action shouldn’t be for sale.  For the same reason that persons aren’t for sale.  They are too valuable.  My word, my friendship and sex should only be given freely not bought.

  10. Ted

    likely taxing prostitution is a bit of a recycled idea that was previously heard about the marijuana debate.  But my guess is that the idea wasn’t that it would be safer, but that it would be a reason to legalize it.

  11. Ted

    Prostitution could still be illegal, but the laws could be adjusted so that the people prosecuted were the buyers and pimps. 

  12. Ted

    Most people don’t think it’s right to sell your vote.  Or to sell your word.  Ex: “I’m selling a garbage product, but because they pay me to, I lie about it.”  The value of some things transcends money.  Exchanging those things for money is a violation of the what those things are for.  That’s why I think selling sex is a bad idea.  It’s like selling your word or allegiance.  It’s way to valuable for that.  Kidneys I kind of feel the same way about.  If someone wants to give it, that’s an amazing sacrifice, but it’s getting really close to the idea of buying somebody.  Person’s shouldn’t be bought and sold.  Selling a kidney while perhaps a bit of a grey area, is getting close to that. 

    The question within his question is, “how are right and wrong defined?”.  How we answer that will determine our answer to the questions he asks.     

  13. diamond_max

    I think it’s sad you can buy someone to mourn. That is sad. Smh..

  14. diamond_max

    I don’t think you should sell hugs.

  15. Anonymous

    Personally, I’m shocked and worried that the stigma of selling sex is disappearing.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say that a banned vice like an illicit substance or prostitution should be legal, “but taxed and heavily regulated,” I would be a wealthy man indeed.  

    Largely this is an irrelevant question, for as long as there is demand for any existing product, no matter how illicit or how immoral, there will be a market for it.  Markets can’t differentiate between what is good, what is bad, what is sacred, what kills the soul, all they can do is put a price tag on a material good or service.  Markets are not God.  Free markets work best in populations that know how to exercise moral discernment.

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