Thursday, October 2, 2014

Organ and blood donation from gay men

Several repugnancies coincide in this sad story that actually involves a suicide apparently resulting from bullying. So, read the whole story, but I'll just highlight here the parts about organ donation: Gay teen’s organ donation rejected

"Before he died, Betts had a request: Donate my organs. A 14-year-old boy received Betts’s heart, according to a letter Moore received, but she said his eyes were rejected.
"A Food and Drug Administration’s guidance for donor eligibility says men who have had sex with men in the past five years “should” be ruled as “ineligible” for donating certain tissues, labeling their behavior a “risk factor.”
"The FDA’s guidance reflects its ban on blood from men who have sex with men. That policy is a by-product of the AIDS crisis that ripped through the gay men’s community decades ago.
"The FDA explains its much harder line regarding blood as such: Men who have had sex with men “at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors” because “a history of male-to-male sex is associated with an increased risk for exposure to and transmission of certain infectious diseases, including HIV.”
"Critics have long called the policy discriminatory, but the FDA says it’snecessary: “FDA’s deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation.”
"In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Glenn Cohen, a bioethics law professor at the Harvard Law School, wrote that the United States should repeal the rules about blood. “We think it’s time for the FDA to take a serious look at this policy, because it’s out of step with peer countries, it’s out of step with modern medicine, it’s out of step with public opinion, and we feel it may be legally problematic,” he told CBS
Cohen notes some contradictions in the FDA blood ban: Men who have sex with HIV-positive women or sex workers are banned for only a year.
Last summer, the American Medical Association voted to end the ban. According to Time magazine, William Kobler, a board member for the the association, said in a statement, “The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science.”
"In Betts’s case, his liver, lungs, kidneys and heart all found recipients. Unlike blood, as long as a recipient gives consent to any associated potential risks (such as HIV transmission) after counseling, certain organs can be donated. But because his mother could not confirm to the donor network that her son hadn’t been sexually active in the five years before his death, Betts’s eyes were rejected.
“This is archaic,” Moore told KCCI. “And it is just silly that people wouldn’t get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old.”

HT: Thayer Morrill

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Helmet laws and organ donors

Would it be repugnant to have a state helmet/donor law that said you are free to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, but when you do so you assert that you wish to be an organ donor in the event of a fatal accident?

Here's a paper from 2011 that suggests such a law might have some effect, since apparently helmet laws reduce organ donations.

Donorcycles: Motorcycle Helmet Laws and the Supply of Organ Donors

Stacy Dickert-ConlinTodd Elder ( and Brian Moore
Journal of Law and Economics, 2011, vol. 54, issue 4, pages 907 - 935
Abstract: Traffic safety mandates are typically designed to reduce the harmful externalities of risky behaviors. We consider whether motorcycle helmet laws also reduce a beneficial externality by decreasing the supply of viable organ donors. Our central estimates show that organ donations resulting from fatal motor vehicle accidents increase by 10 percent when states repeal helmet laws. Two features of this association suggest that it is causal: first, nearly all of it is concentrated among men, who account for over 90 percent of all motorcyclist deaths, and second, helmet laws are unrelated to the supply of donors who die in circumstances other than motor vehicle accidents. The estimates imply that every death of a helmetless motorcyclist prevents or delays as many as .33 death among individuals on organ transplant waiting lists.

Here's a related news story that came up when I searched:
Economist studies link between helmet-free bikers, organ donors

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Call for papers: special issue on Matching in honor of Marilda Sotomayor, in Journal of Dynamics and Games

This call for papers arrived yesterday by email:

Call for Papers

Journal of Dynamics and Games is pleased to invite paper submissions for  
Matching : Theory and Applications,
a Special Issue dedicated to Marilda Sotomayor on the occasion of her 70th birthday.

Marilda Sotomayor is a foundational figure in the development of matching theory and applications in economics with seminal contributions on the structural, game theoretic and mechanism design aspects of the basic model and its extensions. Her volume, Two-Sided Matching (1992), co-authored with 2012 Nobel laureate Roth is the singular textbook in the area, which was awarded the prestigious Frederick W. Lanchester Prize. 

Papers are welcome on all aspects of matching games and markets, theoretical as well as applied, including the analysis and design of institutions or marketplaces, e.g. for jobs or school choice, for houses or organ exchange.  

Please submit your paper directly to one of the invited editors using their email.

Invited Editors:
Ahmet Alkan
Sabancı University, Turkey
Jesús David Pérez Castrillo
Myrna Wooders
Vanderbilt University, USA
John Wooders

Submissions deadline: 28 of  February 2015.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Repugnance of animal sales by zoos

Luke Stein writes to me:

"As the consummate collector of repugnant market stories, I thought you might be interested in a recent NPR story on the exchange of animals across zoos.

Planet Money Episode 566: The Zoo Economy

Zoo animals are different than most possessions, because zoos follow a fundamental principle: You can't sell or buy the animals. It's unethical and illegal to put a price tag on an elephant's head. Today on the show: What do you do in a world where you can't use money?

I don’t remember seeing anything on the blog about zoo animal exchange, and it seems some interesting phenomena have arisen in the face of barriers on the use of money as a medium of exchange. For example, it sounds as if there are barter chains that can get started with certain animals for which there is widespread demand (e.g., jellyfish), and that these chains are fostered by zoos’ developing a reputation for “generosity.”

Unfortunately, the story is audio only—a transcript doesn’t seem available yet—but I was glad to have heard it."

I'm reminded of the repugnance aroused by the prospect of art museums selling art works.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An interview in Spanish (with English translation), and one in German

Jordi Benetiz of Capital Magazine interviewed me, and the interview appears on their website, in Spanish, here: Alvin Roth, Nobel de Economía en 2012: “La pobreza está a menudo relacionada con los fallos en los mercados”

There's also an English version here: “Often poverty is related to the failure of markets”

And here's an article in German, which seems to be based on an interview I gave in Lindau, although the picture is from a panel session there:  Der Markt-Designer

Friday, September 26, 2014

Illegal trade in protected species

The NY Times ran a recent story on the crime lab in Ashland Oregon that handles cases related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Animal Traffic

"The lab has been described as “Scotland Yard for animals” and ” ‘CSI’ meets ‘Doctor Dolittle.’ ”
"Wildlife crime has grown to a $19 billion dollar annual global trade, according to a report released last year by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a conservation nonprofit. The black market in wildlife parts and products is the fourth-largest illegal industry worldwide, behind narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking, and it may well outstrip other illicit enterprises in terms of the variety of crimes and the complexities they pose for law enforcement. The wildlife trade encompasses culinary delicacies and Asian medicines, pets and hunting trophies, clothing and jewelry. It takes in commodities such as elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn, bushmeat, the shells of giant tortoises, the pelts of big-game cats. The environmental and social costs of the trade are grave. Wildlife crime is contributing to the erosion of natural resources and the spread of infectious diseases; it is providing robust new revenue streams for criminal syndicates and even terrorists. In a July 2013 executive order enhancing United States government coordination to combat wildlife crime, President Obama deemed the surge in poaching and trafficking an “international crisis” that is “fueling instability and undermining security.”