I review Kieran Healy's Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs in the Sunday NYTBR. The opening:
Organ transplants are at once the most amazing and frustrating of medical miracles. A new kidney or heart can cure someone who would otherwise die or, even in less than ideal circumstances, extend life and improve well-being. The surgical skill and pharmaceutical innovation required to make transplantation work are wonders of human ingenuity.
But there is still no such thing as a truly new organ. Unlike insulin or artificial hips, organs so far cannot be successfully manufactured. They come only pre-owned, usually from young, healthy people who have died suddenly in traumatic accidents that destroyed their brains. Rainy weekends increase the organ supply. Helmet laws reduce it. The more than 94,000 Americans on the waiting list for organs are, in effect, waiting for someone else to die so that they can live.
The link embedded in the first paragraph goes to recent Times articles on organ transplants--a useful reference.
While the review obviously reflects my interest in the organ shortage, it's also a follow-up to my Boston Globe article on economic sociology. In fact, thanks to journalistic mobility, the same editor, Jenny Schuessler, assigned both pieces.