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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One Tall Voice: Do yourself a favor, don’t donate

Published: January 16, 2009
Section: Opinions

Two summers ago, I was a slave.

I was blindly engaged in AmeriCorps because of altruistic propaganda, rather than the self-interested motives that would drive me to re-enroll the next summer. This invisible servitude also propelled me to drag my brother and myself to a community blood drive, where we heeded the call to service and donated our time and our precious biological material. Once there, so full of the euphoria after fulfilling a silent societal obligation, I thought it would be great to put myself on the bone marrow registry. I didn’t think much of it then, and never thought I would actually get called to donate.

Two years later, after I had realized the glorious truth of objectivist ideology, I was told by the bone marrow registry that I was a match for someone needing marrow back in New Jersey. After giving it some thought, I not only decided that I didn’t want to donate marrow, but requested that I be permanently removed from their list.

This experience reinforced my belief that blindly and irrationally helping others, i.e. donating blood and bone marrow, is wrong. I think it is important for me to relate my sentiments, as calls to sign up for the bone marrow registry and to donate blood have been flooding our campus. I would like to speak against these pleas and ask others to think rationally and selfishly before they make their donations. I warn you, dear reader, that I have already made 3 people cry by conveying my beliefs on this topic. Beware, continue at your own risk!

Our current system of donation is both inefficient and wrong. It tries to rally people with messages of servitude and assistance, as individuals are told that they are obliged to donate to other community members. I don’t want to expound upon objectivist philosophy, other than to say that it dictates that the self is the fountainhead of all things, and that one’s purpose in life is to serve no one but themselves. The idea of blood donation goes completely against this ideology. You get nothing in return, save a free t-shirt and perhaps some stickers or cookies. You are forced into a somewhat painful and time-consuming process without obvious self-interest in sight. Donating marrow requires even more effort, as you must schedule multiple visits, donate blood to be used in a transfusion during your own surgery, and have follow-up check-ins with medical personnel.

And why do people volunteer? Many individuals weakly adhere to the propagandistic messages of service and duty. People are so swept up in emotion, that they don’t think about how foolish this blind obligation really is. If you can truthfully say that donating makes you happy, then do it. But if, like me, the pain and time of giving blood or marrow is too much, then make the rational choice and don’t donate. To be motivated by non-existent bonds and obligations is foolish and, I’d say, almost irrational.

I think there is a far better way to handle donations. Well, actually, my system would not involve donations altogether, but would rather pay people to give their blood or marrow. Perhaps a private “blood insurance” company could be founded and people could opt into this plan with a small premium. Then, when people donate blood, their contribution could lessen their premiums so that there is an incentive for people to contribute to the pool. Others would be paid to donate, at perhaps $20 a pop. Then, when people need blood in hospitals, they would either pay for blood or have it covered with their separate blood insurance plan.

As far as bone marrow goes, a similar system could be adopted. People would volunteer to be in the registry and once they are matched, they would get paid perhaps $500 to $1000 to give their marrow. I am sure that this system will increase contributions of both blood and marrow, as more powerful, economic incentives are used to propel people to donate. It also eliminates the blind selflessness that oftentimes accompanies donations.

I once heard that in some Asian language, the word for “thank you” roughly translates to “you shame me.” This anecdote illustrates why my system would be more beneficial. People would not have to be ashamed at receiving the charity of others, but will accept it in an economic transaction. I guess you could apply this philosophical position to organ donation, hair donation, and a variety of other situations.

I don’t feel bad when individuals say that I am a “mean person” because they knew someone (in one case their father) who needed marrow and I would condemn them to die. I don’t want them to perish, but would like them to pay for their life-saving treatment by reimbursing those who are undergoing the pain of donating. Someone once mentioned that my system was unfair because she couldn’t donate blood. Well then, you should have to pay for that precious commodity and how dare you think yourself freely entitled to donations when you yourself do not add to the pool. Such a moocher! An individual even said that I killed someone by refusing to donate my marrow. Stop being so melodramatic! I’d rather not be a bondsman and would have done it for the bargain price of $500.

Once again, I want to stress that if donating blood gives you pleasure, you should definitely go ahead and donate. Do it for yourself, and for no one else. But if you just contribute because of some blind societal obligation, you should think twice, and reason whether it is in your best interest to donate.

Writer’s note: I welcome and encourage your letters and comments responding to this column and other articles I have written. I just want to convey that I would appreciate well-reasoned responses that discuss my arguments and logic. I have increasingly been receiving ad hominem attacks that degrade my character rather than my logic. This is inappropriate, as only by using reason and being civil can we have a true scholastic dialogue.