Debra J. Saunders

 Maybe they look at other inequities in the world and figure one more inequity won't make a difference. Maybe they convince themselves that they are so special they have a right to an operation that they know could cost another man his life. Besides, they didn't create a world in which the rich get better health care.

 Black-market organ recipients, however, now are changing the world. Today, you don't have to be filthy rich -- just affluent -- to buy someone else's vital organs. (De Leon is a construction superintendent.)

 In this brave new world, the recipient of an organ of dubious origin need not hide or feel shame. De Leon and his wife are online, trading tips on Chinese transplants. They're clearly not afraid that neighbors will shun them for their moral depravity, or that the parents of their children's friends will be appalled. If anything, they act as if they feel empowered.

 Ditto Daniel Farley of Sebastopol, Calif., who also had a liver transplant in Shanghai. "I'm a fairly liberal guy, and it's not the greatest thing to think about," Farley told The Chronicle. "But when you're faced with a certainty -- and (the donors) have a certainty -- it's easier to take. Either someone was sentenced to die or it was their time."

 I could make a gratuitous crack about liberalism, but I won't because I have no doubt that some conservatives have engaged in the same body-parts snatching. When utilitarianism becomes a substitute for right and wrong, the end result is a lot more wrong.

 Or as the De Leons blogged, "You and I have no right and are in no position to know and/or judge China's judicial system." In De Leon's America, you don't judge, you use other people's parts.

 Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, argued that it is "important that people condemn the practice -- church groups, doctors." He likened the China transplant story to "the Titanic syndrome. I'm shoving those women and children out of the way and getting onto that lifeboat."

 Human-rights activist Harry Wu, founder of the China Information Center in Virginia, sees a double-standard. Folks here accept a Californian going to China for organs, but what if De Leon came to San Francisco for a liver from someone's father or brother? Wu asked. What would Bay Area folk think then?

Debra J. Saunders

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