Wednesday, January 05, 2000

A kidney for a cause

Philanthropy has taken an interesting new turn in Iran, where you can apparently support your favorite militant cause not with your rials but with your internal organs. A story in the Los Angeles Times reports that more than 500 Iranians have offered to sell a kidney each to increase the price on the head of Salman Rushdie. The Iranian government is no longer officially pursuing the death of the infidel author for the offense of writing The Satanic Verses, but it does pursue the sale of kidneys, overseeing the clinics where down-and-out Iranians can come to have a little surgery and score a little cash. The donating of body parts to benefit a cause seems to be a new wrinkle, and I for one hope PBS doesn't hear about it.

Can't you just hear the pledge drives now? "Join us at fifty dollars, and receive a book. Join as at one hundred dollars, and receive a tote bag. But join us with the very special pledge of a kidney, and we'll send you a crate full of noses, ears, arms, and other assorted appendages from your favorite Muppet friends!" Telemarketers would go crazy, harassing people on the phone until they literally cough up a lung or give an arm and a leg. School fundraisers--well, forget the candy and gift wrap. "We're collecting money to send our band to Europe, and all we need from you is a kidney!" God forbid yours should be the only kid in the class whose parents choose to keep their insides inside. No pizza party, and it's all your fault!

Think it can't happen here? We're certainly accustomed enough to donating blood, and selling bodily fluids and other renewable resources--even womb time--is hardly unheard of. You'd give your kidney or your bone marrow to someone you love; why not to something you believe in? Or at least something you'd like to get off the phone so you can finish your dinner. Just be careful not to tell your kids you'd give your right arm for them; the Girl Scouts may just decide to stop selling cookies.

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