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Transplant advocates raise alarm over proposal to let NH residents sell their own organs

State House in Concord
Dan Tuohy
View of the New Hampshire State House. Dan Tuohy photo / NHPR

Organ donation advocacy experts say a proposal to allow New Hampshire residents to sell their own organs and blood is unethical and could have unintended consequences.

The bill is backed by Rep. Jason Gerhard, a Republican from Northfield, who said he believes creating a free market for organs and rare blood types would incentivize more donations and decrease wait times.

Gerhard, who previously served 12 years in prison for participating in an armed siege over a refusal to pay income taxes, said his proposal is a matter of personal freedom.

“I think we gotta go back to the old adage: my body, my choice," he said. "You should be able to do what you wish with your body, since it is your body, and the government does not own your body."

But opponents, including Alex Glazier with New England Donor Services, said the proposal is unethical, untested, and would lead to inequalities in organ access.

“This could create a perverse market system where body parts of the poor become commodities for the rich to gain preferential access to lifesaving transplant,” Glazier said.

She pointed out that the sale of organs is already prohibited under federal law. She also noted that only nation to permit private sales is Iran, where despite government regulation, donors and recipients are often subjected to last-minute extortion requests.

The New Hampshire House has not yet scheduled a vote on the measure.

Opponents also noted the often sordid underworld of body part sales, including the pending criminal case brought last year against a Goffstown couple who allegedly stole body parts from Harvard Medical School's anatomical gifts program, where one of them previously worked as morgue manager. Earlier this week, a Massachusetts judge dismissed civil cases filed against Harvard by families of people who donated their bodies to the program.

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Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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