On Monday the Institute for Justice (IJ) announced “a major legal victory for cancer patients and their families from across the nation.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declined to seek Supreme Court review of a March 2012 decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that compensating most bone-marrow donors is not a crime. This decision will give doctors and their patients a powerful tool in the fight against deadly blood diseases.

“This decision will not only save lives, but also reinforce the principle that doctors and patients should have the freedom to make their own choices when confronted with deadly diseases,” said Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice and lead counsel on the case.

The problem is that the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 “made it a serious crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, to compensate someone for a human organ for transplantation. The Act defines bone marrow as an organ.”

This is a tremendous victory for those needing a bone-marrow transplant and for the cause of liberty in medicine. The Institute for Justice deserves our gratitude for taking up this vital fight.

Laws that criminalize compensation for organ donation violate the rights of donors and recipients to associate on voluntary terms; this results in the deaths of countless people currently unable to find donors. Such laws are profoundly immoral.

Obviously the government must ensure that no one is forced to donate organs against his explicit, sober consent. The government’s only proper role in this sphere is to protect the rights of consenting adults to exchange value for value in accordance with their own judgment. Although many donors choose to donate tissues or organs without compensation, many others will donate only if they receive compensation. Donors have a right to seek compensation, and recipients (or third-party charities) have a right to pay it. When government violates these rights, it causes needless suffering and death.

Kudos to the Institute for Justice for fighting for our rights to life and liberty—and may the organization have many more successes in the future. Your life may depend on it.

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Image: Institute for Justice

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