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Transportation Medicine Science Technology

Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse (slate.com) 295

One of the many ways self-driving cars will impact the world is with organ shortages. It's a morbid thought, but the most reliable sources for healthy organs and tissues are the more than 35,000 people killed each year on American roads. According to the book "Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead," 1 in 5 organ donations comes from the victim of a vehicular accident. Since an estimated 94 percent of motor-vehicle accidents involve some kind of a driver error, it's easy to see how autonomous vehicles could make the streets and highways safer, while simultaneously making organ shortages even worse. Slate reports: As the number of vehicles with human operators falls, so too will the preventable fatalities. In June, Christopher A. Hart, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said, "Driverless cars could save many if not most of the 32,000 lives that are lost every year on our streets and highways." Even if self-driving cars only realize a fraction of their projected safety benefits, a decline in the number of available organs could begin as soon as the first wave of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles hits the road -- threatening to compound our nation's already serious shortages. We're all for saving lives -- we aren't saying that we should stop self-driving cars so we can preserve a source of organ donation. But we also need to start thinking now about how to address this coming problem. The most straightforward fix would be to amend a federal law that prohibits the sale of most organs, which could allow for development of a limited organ market. Organ sales have been banned in the United States since 1984, when Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act after a spike in demand (thanks to the introduction of the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, which improved transplant survival rates from 20-30 percent to 60-70 percent) raised concerns that people's vital appendages might be "treated like fenders in an auto junkyard." Others feared an organ market would exploit minorities and those living in poverty. But the ban hasn't completely protected those populations, either. The current system hasn't stopped organ harvesting -- the illegal removal of organs from the recently deceased without the consent of the person or family -- either in the United States or abroad. It is estimated that, worldwide, as many as 10,000 black market medical operations are performed each year that involve illegally purchased organs. So what would an ethical fix to our organ transplant shortage look like? To start, while there's certainly a place for organ donation markets in the United States, implementation will be understandably slow. There are, however, small steps that can get us closer to a just system. For one, the country could consider introducing a "presumed consent" rule. This would change state organ donation registries from affirmative opt-in systems (checking that box at the DMV that yes, you do want to be an organ donor) to an affirmative opt-out system where, unless you state otherwise, you're presumed to consent to be on the list.
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Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:21PM (#53582227)

    They can compensate by giving out free motorcycles. And keeping helmets expensive, of course.

    • Re:Free Motorcycles (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:30PM (#53582271)

      I've said for years that helmet laws probably costs lives. One healthy young male with a head injury is a source of several potentially life-saving organs. I don't think that it's of such value that helmets should be banned, but just that it shouldn't be mandatory. That plus the "presumed consent" mentioned above would help the organ shortage a bit.

      • Re:Free Motorcycles (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:44PM (#53582341)

        As being on the organ transplant list myself, I'm all too familiar with the reality of receiving an organ, and it's not exactly what pop culture makes it out to be. Transplanted organs typically don't last as long as the rest of your body and are actually a somewhat crappy form of treatment to an even crappier disease. It varies by organ, but you can expect around a 10 year half life for most transplants (meaning if you took 100 patients that received an organ, after 10 years check back with them, only 50 of them will still have that organ.)

        And then of course, being on anti-rejection drugs is high maintenance and it just plain sucks.

        But this isn't the worst part of it: If you live in the US, often times your wait can exceed 7 years due to the way individual transplant networks are segmented. If you happen to live near two hospitals that cover two different transplant networks (and thus can list twice) your odds are better. If you're like Steve Jobs and you have your own private jet and can fly anywhere in the country within an hour, then you can list everywhere and have an organ in no time.

        Still though, it's better than nothing. I personally do like the idea of people being able to sell their organs, which would definitely level the playing field, just so long as it's done as a single buyer system with a fixed price. Countries that do it this way have practically zero organ shortage, and even if you were to pay $100,000 per patient, you'd still save a crapload money over what medicare pays for treatments like dialysis (the average dialysis patient costs medicare roughly $100,000 per year, whereas with a transplant it's a low, low price of $5,000 a year for the maintenance medication.)

        • by Hasaf ( 3744357 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:49PM (#53582377)

          However, even if people were permitted to sell organs, as part of their estate, then the money would be part of the estate. It would then be attached by the hospital that created the availability in the first place, as compensation for the medical expenses.

          The result would be a morbid incentive to the hospitals while providing, essentially, no remuneration to the family of the deceased.

          . . . it is a good idea, but the presence of people in the system will screw it up.

          • It would then be attached by the hospital that created the availability in the first place, as compensation for the medical expenses.

            The result would be ... no remuneration to the family of the deceased.

            This would only be true if there was zero competition, and the donor's family had no other choice but to accept whatever price the monopsony buyer offered.

          • However, even if people were permitted to sell organs, as part of their estate, then the money would be part of the estate. It would then be attached by the hospital that created the availability in the first place, as compensation for the medical expenses.

            If it's done as single buyer, then hospital wouldn't be the buyer and wouldn't be involved financially, other than charging the recipient for the cost of the harvesting, which is something they already do.

            This idea would also be for living donors, as what is currently done in Iran, so it wouldn't necessarily be for a deceased donor. Though I think $100k is excessive, rather I just gave it as an example, and something like $25,000 would be more realistic.

        • Countries that do it this way have practically zero organ shortage

          Can you provide a citation for this? I am unaware of any countries that allow donors to be compensated. Most, including America, allow the buying and selling of organs, and hospitals make a lot of money doing that, but it is currently illegal for any of that money to go to a donor or a deceased donor's family.

          • Here's an NIH paper on how Iran does it, and their model seems to work particularly well:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]

            This will probably never happen in the US though. Too many people have this idea that it will lead to widespread organ theft, thanks to an old urban legend promoted by an episode of Law and Order where a dude woke up with a missing kidney. So far, there haven't been any actual confirmed cases of organ theft anywhere in the world, only unproven rumors.

            The truth is, harvesting organs is no

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        One healthy young male with a head injury is a source of several potentially life-saving organs.

        Indeed. We not only get the organs, but the mean intelligence of humanity goes up every time an idiot is removed from the gene pool. We need to repeal helmet laws.

        • Yeah, we might also be able to stave off the Idiocracy future for maybe a few generations more. However with this new president-elect, that future may already have arrived.

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        Yeah, cause you know, fuck those evil young men amiright?

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:21PM (#53582229) Homepage Journal

    we're closer and closer to organ cloning.

  • oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:21PM (#53582231)

    Think of all those people who are going to die because of all those other people who aren't going to die!

  • Oh noes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:22PM (#53582235)

    You mean healthy people will keep their healthy organs, instead of dying and giving them to unhealthy people?

    • by UPZ ( 947916 )

      You mean healthy people will keep their healthy organs, instead of dying and giving them to unhealthy people?

      I would not go that far. Many people have organ malfunction due to factors entirely outside their control, that accounts for a huge percentage of transplants. For example, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

      • Re: Oh noes! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:35PM (#53582283)

        It doesn't matter if it's outside of their control. If you need an organ, you are unhealthy.

      • Good thing this lowers the likelihood of them passing on their bad organ failing genes.

        Think of all the future generations you'd save.

      • Bad example. People with a genetic condition like that are unhealthy. Perhaps a better example would be people that were the victims of war, crime, or accident that they were not at fault. This could leave them blinded, maimed, etc. and in need of a tissue or organ transplant to restore their health fully.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Healthy people don't need their health restored!

          Unhealthy isn't an accusation or a value judgement, it's a state of being.

  • That's great news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UPZ ( 947916 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:25PM (#53582245)
    If less people are dying on the road (resulting in organ shortage) those lives are already saved. Can't say I support people dying for the sake of their organs. Hopefully through, it will accelerate artificial organ (biological or chemicoelectrical) development.
    • Or perhaps it will just create more incentive for the Chinese to more aggressively harvest organs from their prison populace.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        This isn't a bad idea....... Let's compel all prisoners to submit their organs in the event they should be executed Or die.

        Step up the number of offenses that will be given the death penalty in order to help with the shortages, And make sure the manner of death preserves the organs.

        More than one count of 1st degree murder = Automatic death penalty for 90% of cases.

        Being convicted a second time dealing hard drugs or narcotics after serving Jailtime, or a 3rd time for any illegal substance = Automatic de

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          Or jaywalking. Those walking bags of life-sustaining and profitable organs are just flouting their disrespect for everyone!

          Also, this is going to create a perverse incentive to immunize yourself against organ harvesting by picking up the latest incurable disease being spread through the prison population like AIDS or Hepatitis C currently.
          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            Also, this is going to create a perverse incentive to immunize yourself against organ harvesting by picking up the latest incurable disease

            Disincentivize catching one of those by having required testing And assigning a more painful method of execution and expediting the executions of prisoners found to have them.

            • by khallow ( 566160 )

              Disincentivize catching one of those by having required testing And assigning a more painful method of execution and expediting the executions of prisoners found to have them.

              Well, another serious problem solved by Slashdot.

        • There are more than enough people being caught doing these crimes to be taken out of society make up for the shortfall that safer cars' bettering society will cause.

          Bettering society? All I see in your remarks is advocating for people with power to leverage it against others to benefit themselves. This isn't how you better society it is how you rot it out.

          We have already seen what happens when you breed corruption in the legal system. Government now steals more shit from people without even bothering to charge or convict than sum total of everything reported stolen.

          During my lifetime the rate at which cases have gone to trial has dropped by an order of magnitude. P

        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          Don't forget pirating music, hacking, possessing an unlicensed debugger or suggesting that people be killed for their organs.
          Shit with enough capital crimes, we can finally have the perfect society, especially when the other team gets elected and changes the list of capital crimes. The left will execute you for saying a bad word and the right will execute you for saying a bad word

        • Countries have experimented with the death penalty for stealing, and discovered that robbers would kill their victims instead of letting them go. After all, if the punishment for robbery and murder are the same, you may as well commit the crime least likely to get you caught.
    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @09:49PM (#53582683)

      If less people are dying on the road (resulting in organ shortage) those lives are already saved. Can't say I support people dying for the sake of their organs. Hopefully through, it will accelerate artificial organ (biological or chemicoelectrical) development.

      This! REading some of these posts, it would seem that some folks here want to go out and kill others to harvest their internal organs.

    • I don't support people dying from traffic accidents either. If one were to take the route of "for the benefit of the many" morality one could argue a dead teen in a traffic accident can save more lives and improve the lives of many. Death by head injury can leave two kidneys, two lungs, liver, heart, and other tissues and organs. If no serious injuries to appendages, and transplant technology advances a bit, then we'd have two arms, and two legs for veterans injured in war, as an example.

      This "benefit fo

      • so you are arguing for the right of the obscenely wealthy to become fuck-all obscenely wealthy? Wealth disproportion is what leads to gas chambers or more likely guillotines. We need to tax the holy fuck out of the wealthy because they have all the wealth. Wanting to take it from the poor and middle class is to want to squeeze blood from a turnip. A nice punitive 90-99%% tax rate for incomes/wealth over $2 million dollars would do a lot to reduce ridiculous executive compensation.
        We, the middle and work

  • and when the software F* up's and starts killing at first we need to stock up. Also maybe we can go to war and get some from that.

  • by LordHighExecutioner ( 4245243 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:41PM (#53582313)
    Just implement a car self-driving mode that, following an organ shortage, starts driving the car very fast, so that plenty of organs for transplant are promptly collected. The only question remaining to solve is to decide if it is better to collect the organs needed from the passengers or from nearby pedestrians.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      What with complete total corporate tracking of individuals including their DNA, why random. Do it via a rich corporate executive designed method. Simply track down matching DNA and then, well, tailor and automated accident to ensure the safe delivery of the required organ, you know, you just know, that is exactly what many psychopathic corporate executives are dreaming of, along with harvesting children for the fresh blood. Nothing to low for those that turned NATO, the North American Territorial Occupation

    • You could link up the geo-location too, and if the accident wasn't too severe, have the car auto-drive to the hospital to deliver the organ(s).

      • by Imrik ( 148191 )

        Or just auto-drive to the hospital to deliver the person that died of a malfunctioning seatbelt that constricted their breathing.

  • "Think of all the people who will now die because of all the people who won't die". Classic!! LOLz
  • There is so much coming out about self driving cars, even through the tech is years away from mass use. We may never seen consumer owned self driving vehicles either, just due to security and safety issues. I wrote a post on this recently:

    http://penguindreams.org/blog/self-driving-cars-will-not-solve-the-transportation-problem/

    It goes into many of the hardware, software and general transportation issues with self driving cars. I don't think they'll be a reality in the near future. They're a good 6 ~ 8 years off at a minimum.

  • An unasked question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:50PM (#53582379)

    What percentage of the people who need organ transplants are in that condition because their organs were damaged in an automobile crash? Is it significant, or is it tiny?

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Most permanent organ failures occurs due to genetic diseases, substance abuse, Or more rarely cancer, damage done by accidental poisoning, Or an infection.

      I know this is kind of harsh.... but perhaps regarding the genetic defects, evolution will take its course if it is a shortage of
      transplantable organs, and these mutated genes causing the problem will get obliterated from existence instead of continued
      to the next generation by having a donor recipient continue to live and then pass on the gen

      • You can always do this now, just by sterilizing the patient before implanting the new organ.

      • I don't believe ...

        It's not a matter of faith.

        Dead humans are supposed to be in the food chain just like other dead animals.

        However, humans are buried where scavengers can't go, some are treated, postmortem, to be inedible, or they are cremated.

        Did you ever think of that?

        No.

        You only think of yourself.

        --

        There are a lot of illnesses that Mother Nature provides for the purposes of creating misery for humans.

        Mother Nature also provided humans with the intelligence to combat those illnesses.

        It's us vs her.

        Did you ever think of tha

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Maybe self-driving cars will reduce the need for organ transplants because there will be fewer people with damaged organs. How many people turned to drug or alcohol abuse after being involved in a car accident?

  • Less appeals. Problem solved and we can finally be rid of those pesky Jay Walkers.

    • Naw. The Yoo Ess is leading the world in obesity. True that the heart won't be very good but some of the other organs might be usable after too much TV, chips, pizza and microwave dinners.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:51PM (#53582385) Journal
    Until the leap-year bug hits, and we have a bunch of organ donors all at once, right?

    Seriously though, we're closer to lab-grown organs [popsci.com] than we are to self-driving cars. This is a problem that is (fortunately) well on the way to being solved.
  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @08:51PM (#53582387) Homepage

    It seems that science is close to being able to grow human organs in pigs [cnn.com]. So maybe we don't have to worry so much about losing transplant organs because fewer people are dying in car crashes.

  • Sounds like a really, really, really bad idea.

  • With face recognition we can nail those ne'er do wells, hence putting their organs up for transplant.
  • Make ORGAN SHORTAGES worse? Holy moly the utilitarians are out in fucking FORCE. Way to spin a positive into a negative.

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      I wonder in next the original poster will posit that the surge in contraception and abortions are depriving childless couples of the opportunity to adopt unwanted babies? That every abortion deprives a homosexual couple of a baby...

  • Cue fallacies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday December 30, 2016 @09:17PM (#53582511) Homepage Journal
    That is the worst example of the broken window fallacy that I've ever heard.
  • Organ market looks a very bad idea: "got a bad debt? Megacorp Inc. can help you - in exchange for a kidney."

    I understand it exists as a black market, but making it legal is not a step in the right direction to curb it down.

  • Usually, when a new — more efficient — way of doing things arrives, a sizeable number of people complain about the poor souls used to making a living doing things the old — less efficient — way. If we seriously listened to these people, we would've still survived on hunting and gathering — in perfect harmony with nature.

    That we listen to them at all is why our progress is slower, than it should be. Such people — who are convinced, factories exist to provide employment

    • Such people â" who are convinced, factories exist to provide employment â" are, to put it mildly, cretins.

      Of course factories exist to provide profit for the rich factory owners. What the people (who are not factory owners) should do is every so often stage a revolution, round up a lot of the factory owners and kill them, then redistribute their wealth. After that, go back home and wait for a new crop of rich factory owners to grow. This would be so much better than working in a factory. And this is what you would get if there were a lot of unemployed hungry people and some rich people in the same country.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Of course factories exist to provide profit for the rich factory owners.

        No, you illiterate cretin, factories exist to make goods. Whoever owns them — be it the Glorious Collective or a greedy capitalist — that's their purpose...

        You can shove the rest of your Bolshevik apologia to where it would do the most good...

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @10:50PM (#53582915)

    ... who survive, are in that population of people who need organs?

  • Apparently there is some progress in growing new organs in the test tube so to speak. Or perhaps we could cause animals to grow organs that are suited for humans. I have a cow valve that replaced the aortic valve in my heart. It works great and requires no anti-rejection or other medications. The limit on how long these valves will last is not established but i am seven years into mine and it is still perfect. The heart doctors seem to speculate that these valves might last for twenty years.
  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday December 30, 2016 @11:52PM (#53583129) Journal

    Iran has a legal (and regulated) market for kidneys [wikipedia.org]. Donating a kidney is a mild risk, but frankly less of a risk than many professions.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Saturday December 31, 2016 @12:55AM (#53583327) Homepage

    There are lots of things wrong with our organ policy, but the way to fix it is NOT to continue (or increase) dangerously stupid activities in the hopes of getting donors.

    Instead we can fix the "no compensantion laws" that are ridiculously tight, and do simple things like:

    1) Have tax credits that cover things like a) travel and housing costs for donors, b) unemployment payments if you have to take more than 2 weeks off to donate,

    2) Require all government ID's (except passports) to have a field for organ donation yes/no, on the front of the ID. You want to drink, drive, etc. you have to at least think about being a donor.

    3) Fix the opt - in system - either 1) Legally enforce opt in for donations so if you sign permission for organ donation, your heirs can not over-ride it) and/or 2) allow states to use an opt-out system, so people have to consciously say no thanks to avoid being listed as an organ donor, rather than go out of their way to sign up.

  • 1 of 5 organ transplants are the result of auto accidents, most of which are caused by driver error. OK, two points for realizing that driverless cars will lead to fewer driver error accidents, but this isn't the real problem - the real problem is that people are reluctant to sign up as organ donors. For example, if we went into the most dangerous neighborhoods around Chicago and had organ donor drives we could see a definite spike in usable organ donations.

    I suspect (I'm guessing) that the vast majority of

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday December 31, 2016 @01:35AM (#53583441) Journal

    Fewer organs for most of us, maybe. But for Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Travis Kalanick, and the other self-driving car company executives... well, when they need an organ, a perfectly matching donor will have the perfect crash.

  • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Saturday December 31, 2016 @02:04AM (#53583501) Journal
    We need to provide incentives and remove barriers. I propose:

    Priority on the recipient list if the patient had been on the donor list for at least 2 years prior to getting sick

    Parents can add their children to the donor list to receive this priority as well

    The donor registration can no longer be overridden by the family

    A tax break for being a registered donor

  • vital appendages

    An organ is not an appendage, and appendages are not vital.

  • If not oneg his head blown off, no more livers, right?

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