Post by Robert Carnegie Post by Thomas Koenig
I sometimes wonder how valid the organleggers' business model in
Niven's stories is.
For those who don't know the stories (anybody?): In an early
period of Niven's Known Space universe, transplant medicine has
progressed considerably. As a consequence, the the death penalty
is imposed for very minor crimes (like exceeding the speed limit).
Convicted criminals are broken up for transplants, so each one
saves, on average, several lives. People vote for this because
they "want to live forever". So far, so unpleasant.
There are also criminals who kidnap victims, break them up and use
their organs as transplants for people who can not get them legally.
These are the Organleggers, and a few of the Gil the ARM stories
deal the protagonist hunting them. The punishment for organlegging,
of course, is death by organ bank.
This is facilityted by weapons which reliably knock out people
without harming them otherwise.
Now, what I don't understand is how the market works. We have
otherwise law-abiding citizens trying to make contact with a
highly criminal organizations which routinely kill people. How
would one go about this? Anybody standing on a street corner
approaching people with "Hey you, your eyes look jaundiced. Need a
new liver?" would very quickly fall afoul of undercover policemen.
More generally, if the "services" of the organleggers were available
to the general population, sting operations would be commonplace,
and people who changed their minds before an operation would also
be a grave danger to organleggers - instead of a patient, a SWAT
team could show up. Or convicted criminals could get their freedom
by volunteering for a sting operation.
On the other hand, if somebody went to an organlegger to get
some replacement organ - it can be assumed that the visit would
be done in secrecy. How would such a potential receiver be sure
that the organleggers would not make him disappear? Easier to
kidnap people who are already in your secret lair, instead of just
grabbing somebody off the street.
Also, even if the organleggers are "honest" (and why would they
be?) , a few planted press reports about dishonest ones who break
up 20% of their customers shold do a nice job of deterring
Soo... maybe that particular future isn't in the cards, at least
not the organleggers part?
"Up to 42% illegally purchased", "difficult to substantiate".
(a frequent problem with Wikipedia)
You more-or-less hit the nail on the head as to how Robin Cook (a modern
day incantation of Canon Doyle) saw things in _Coma_, back of the book,
back in the day:
This novel was conceived as an entertainment, but it is not
science fiction. Its implications are scary because they are
possible, perhaps even probable. Consider a classified
advertisement that appeared in the San Gabriel (Calif.) Tribune,
May 9, 1968, col. 4:
NEED A TRANSPLANT?
Man will sell any portion of body for financial remuneration
to person needing an operation. Write box 1211-630, Covina.
The advertiser did not specify what organ or organs, or
even whose body they were to come from.
And there have been other advertisements, many others, in
various newspapers across the country. Even specific offers of
the hearts from living people!
As gruesome as these ads sound, they should come as no great
surprise. There are plenty of precedents for the market economy
in medicine. Blood-which may be considered as an organ-is
routinely bought and sold. There is a commerce in semen, which,
while not an organ, is the product of an organ.
_Coma_ uses the Jefferson Institute as a criminal front, a clearinghouse
for black-market human organs:
"He was transferred to the Jefferson Institute in South
"What the hell is the Jefferson Institute?"
"It's an intensive care facility built as part of the
area's Health Maintenance Organization design. Supposedly
it's been designed to curtail costs by applying economics
of scale in relation to intensive care. It's privately
run but the government financed construction. The concept
and plans came out of the Harvard-MIT health practices
The sign read: "The Jefferson Institute." Below the
blue letters was a brass plaque. It said: "Constructed
with the Support of the Department of Health, Education
and Welfare, US Government, 1974."
The Jefferson Institute was surrounded by an
eight-foot-high hurricane fence. ...
"I know it will sound incredible, but the Jefferson
Institute is a clearinghouse for black-market transplant
organs. Somehow these people get orders for organs with
a specific tissue type. Then whoever runs the show reaches
around in the hospitals here in Boston till they find
patients with the proper type. If it's a surgical patient,
they merely add a little carbon monoxide to his anesthesia.
If it's a medical patient he-or she-gets a shot of
succinylcholine in his I.V. The victim's upper brain is
destroyed. He's a living corpse, but his organs are alive
and warm and happy until they can be taken out by the
butchers at the Institute."
Dialog tip. Although Cook initially uses "said" to establish dialog, he
forgoes further use after a conversation is started.
Don.......My cat's )\._.,--....,'``.
telltale tall tail /, _.. \ _\ (`._ ,.
tells tall tales.. `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'