Vampiric Medical Technology

Guest Post by Enrique Guerra-Pujol

In Chapter 12 (“Buy or Bite?”) of The Economics of the Undead, I observed how most members of the vampire race resort to coercion, compulsion, and confiscation to procure fresh supplies of blood — an essential staple of the vampire diet — and I posed the following fundamental question: “Are vampires ‘bad’? Are they inherently evil or unethical creatures?”

My main argument in “Buy or Bite?” is that vampires are not necessarily bad, that without a legal market for the purchase and sale of blood, vampires have no other choice but to steal their supplies of blood through fraud and force. I thus proposed the creation of legalized “blood markets” to allow us humans to transfer our property rights in our blood to vampires on a consensual and contractual basis.

The domain of my argument, however, was limited to the fictional world of vampires, the world of film, literature, and the arts generally. But now new research by scientists at Stanford and Harvard universities has found that blood from young mice can significantly improve the learning and memory of old mice. Assuming these exciting research findings hold true for humans, my argument for the legalization of the purchase and sale of blood becomes more salient than ever.

For as Jess Zimmerman asks in this fascinating post titled “Young Blood,” “what’s to stop old people from stealing [blood] from the young?” This is a question that has haunted us since the monstrous myth of the blood-thirsty Hungarian countess Lady Elizabeth Báthory, who lived in the 17th century and who was alleged to have killed hundreds of her young peasant servants and taken daily baths in their blood in order to keep herself from growing old.

But with a legal market for the regular purchase and sale of blood, we need not fear the specter of the old stealing blood from the young. Why not? Because as I explain in “Buy or Bite?,” legal markets convert mutual conflict into joint cooperation since both sides to a transaction benefit from voluntary trade. By way of example, given the potential human applications of the scientific discoveries described above, both old and young could reap enormous benefits from trade in blood.

Consider first the demand side of this potential market — old people who might want to purchase the blood of young adults for this blood’s possible youth-conferring and curative powers. Obviously, if the promising results of the mice-blood experiments were to apply to humans, old people would be better off if they could procure supplies of young blood in order to stave off dementia and live longer and healthier lives.

Now let’s consider the supply side. If you are old enough to vote, join the Army, or drink, why can’t you also be free to choose to sell your own blood? With a legal blood market, young adults would now have a new form of renewable “human capital” at their disposal, and to the extent young people tend to be poorer than older people, many of them could put the potential income generated from the voluntary sale of their blood to good use.

Of course, many people may find the possibility of blood sales morally repugnant. But even if you include yourself among this group of anti-market moralizers, you should keep in mind that markets are always voluntary. That is, when markets are legal, nobody is forced to sell their blood if they don’t want to. But when markets are illegal or legally unclear (as is the case with blood sales today), everyone is prevented from realizing mutually beneficial transactions.

In short, with legalized markets in blood both young and old could benefit from a medical advance that seemingly benefits only the old. The old and the young — as well as vampires and humans for that matter — would have incentives to engage in mutually beneficial trade. Imagine the possibilities!


30 responses to “Vampiric Medical Technology

  • enrique

    Reblogged this on prior probability and commented:
    We are re-blogging for our vampire friends our guest blog post below on the subject of “Vampiric medical technology.” Our post builds on our chapter (“Buy or Bite?”) in the book The Economics of the Undead in which we make the case for legal markets in blood sales between vampires and humans. In our blog post below, we extend this argument even further …

  • Oly

    I love it, everything my son writes tiene sentido. Love

  • Heather G.

    Technically, aren’t we, on a very small scale, already selling our blood to the Red Cross? Usually they give a free movie ticket or some other incentive to donate your blood. I say go for it! People receive money to donate their eggs and sperm, and eggs don’t regenerate like blood does. Our bodies keep making blood, so as long as it is regulated and you don’t sell too much of it and die, who is it hurting? Isn’t one of the big social arguments that it is my body and no one should tell me what to do with it? If you have the money and want to buy someone else’s blood to keep you young, how is it any different than going and getting Botox, especially if it could actually improve your quality of life, not just your looks? It would definitely have to be regulated to prevent shoddy practices, like all trades. But would it really not hurt anybody? What about the blood banks for people in hospitals that need transfusions? It is already hard for them to keep up with the demand by relying on people to donate for free, so if there was an alternative option for people to give their blood and get money for it, I would think it would hurt the Red Cross and other companies helping to keep the blood banks full.

    • enrique

      Your point about the Red Cross is a great one. The Red Cross currently has a monopoly in this particular market, so they might be opposed to competition as a matter of self-intetest!

  • Brandon Hargreaves

    I personally don’t see an issue with people selling their blood as long as there is proper regulation, by either the government or a private firm. Technically, this is something we all ready do and are paid for our donation of blood to a blood bank In exchange for our “donation” we are given a gift card or cards for out donation. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to sell our blood to blood centers for cash. People could then choose to sell it directly to the blood bank, the hospital, or some other individual who wishes to purchase the blood. By individuals be compensated more to there liking, such as with cash, you could drive up the supply of blood and save more lives. The quality of blood would need to be verified and the better quality of blood would me worth more.

  • Anna V.

    Even though the idea sounds a little morbid, buying and selling blood would actually create jobs as well as allow people to make some extra money to supplement their regular income. There are already plasma centers which allow people to sell their plasma in their blood for money. So what if there were the same kind of center for people to sell their blood? Then hospitals would have a wealthy supply of blood and there could even be new procedures where the elderly could get young blood to improve their health. The idea sounds a little far fetched now, but in the future, it may actually become a successful business.

    • enrique

      True, the idea of a blood market does sound morbid, but I wonder what effect such a negative emotion would have on the price of blood? Perhaps the price of blood would have to be sufficiently high in order to induce potential sellers to sell their blood!

  • Kim Cole

    I don’t see a problem with people buying and selling their blood, as long as the market is regulated. By regulating the market both parties will benefit. The party buying the blood will get the blood they want and the party selling the blood will be financially compensated. By regulating the market the blood can be properly screened for diseases like it is screened when people donate blood. Since participation in the buying and selling of blood is totally voluntary, no one is being harmed. The danger lies in leaving this market unregulated. In an unregulated market, people may be forced to give their blood against their will and may go uncompensated. People in need of blood will use force to get blood since it is the only avenue they are given to acquire blood. A regulated market would allow for safe transactions and both buyers and sellers would win.

    • enrique

      Kim and Brandon are absolutely right about the need for some form of regulation because a market cannot work without rules. This is a big blind spot in my blog post above, since I don’t really discuss what such regulations would look like if there really were a free market for blood, but I certainly agree that we cannot have a market without rules and regulations. Moreover, such rules need to be clear and fair. In addition, we must ask, Who should establish and enforce these rules? The government (e.g., the FDA), or the industry (e.g., hospitals, the Red Cross, etc.)?

  • Mohammed

    I am all for it. People are selling their organs and blood in clandestine market already. It’s happening in undeveloped countries more than in developed countries, and it is causing more harm to the less privileged since it’s illegal and need to be done as an underground activity in illegal facilities. Young and poor people are willing to scarify their health in exchange of money, but they are doing it in such bad conditions that cause so much harm to them and may also result in spreading transmittable diseases.
    If this became legal, the donor become a seller and the seller and the buyer rights will be protected. The transaction will then be processed in official facilities that can secure the quality of the product and care about the well being of both the buyer and the seller as clientele.

  • Marleen B

    Currently, the sale of plasma is legal and considered safe and profitable so I suppose copying the same model for other blood sale could be considered a viable option. You could also argue that when you look at the dangers imposed to society due to illegal unregulated blood markets (ie India) that its our governments duty to support a regulated market. However, just because we have a regulated market it doesn’t mean the underground or black market would go away..( just look at sale of marijuana) it would just impose a competitive alternative for the consumers which in my mind is a better alternative than keeping the stays quo.

  • Cindy K.

    I agree, that markets like this are already in existence in our current society, i.e. “donating” blood and receiving movie tickets in return, also, you are allowed to sell your plasma. If this market of blood sales is to take place there would need to be extreme regulations put into action in order to make sure that it is practiced safely and ethically. I do feel that both parties would be benefiting by the young receiving extra income and the old receiving regenerative benefits, but I think that it would cause some major problems. Even though there would be a legal market for purchase I could only assume that it would be pretty pricey, and not all of the elderly could afford this. This in turn could cause them to go out and receive their young blood in other illegal manners like stealing, killing, or kidnapping. Another thought is that with the regulations the donor would have to be 18 or older…in theory. What age does the best blood come from? Eventually people would get greedy (as they do with everything) and want the benefits from even younger donors to keep them young, which in turn could actually create a whole new black market for “underage” blood, putting the younger generations at risk.

  • Justin Creamer

    I thought this article brought up an interesting idea in the possibility of a legal blood market. If the results of the mice-blood experiments did apply to humans I could imagine a blood market becoming a legal market. The idea of a voluntary blood market like the one described in this article may seem disturbing to some, however, it’s potential benefits to those that participate in the market could be life changing. For many elderly I imagine the ability to stave off dementia and live longer and healthier lives has a far greater value than the monetary price of a young persons blood. And for the young blood donors that may not have the financial stability they would like, the chance to earn extra income by simply giving your blood would be a welcome opportunity. In the end I think a blood market would be a beneficial market to all parties involved.

  • Nicole Arft

    I know several student workers at UCF that sell their plasma every semester and the more they give the higher they are paid by the plasma collection company. The company provides an incentive to give your plasma, in turn more people are willing to give. Similarly, OneBlood has a mobile blood center known as the Big Red Bus. I personally have donated numerous time in their Big Red Buses for two reasons, one because of the convenient location and two because of the incentive of a free movie, gas gift card, or t-shirt. OneBlood may not be paying donors’ cash to donate, but they are providing a legal exchange of one good for their wanted good, blood. I don’t think paying donors cash instead of exchanging a gift card or good is much different. In my opinion OneBlood should be paying for the blood they are receiving because even though they are a not-for-profit blood center, they do sell their blood to hospitals. I think being able to provide a regulated blood market for donors to benefit as well as the people receiving the blood donation whether they are the elderly or a patient in a hospital could be beneficial.

  • Jose P.

    This article highlights the potential benefits that legalizing a blood market can have, however I can see that there may also be some negative outcomes. To me, blood could be classified as a luxury good and not a normal good. Like any other good that we put into our bodies, there are governing organizations that regulate those goods, making blood no different from say, a candy bar. To insure buyers that the quality of blood is acceptable, there needs to be heavy guidance and regulations put into place to make sure that no harm comes to consumers. It is because of these reasons that I believe blood would be classified as a luxury good. The costs associated with the acquisition and maintenance of blood would be relatively high and to some, there would be less incentive for them to act in accordance with the law and more incentive to act unethically. Blood itself is not your typical commodity that can easily be exchanged, which can make it difficult for your typical consumer to purchase it. Who’s not to say that the wealthier members of society would purchase all of the high quality blood that while can benefit those is need, benefits only those with the means of acquiring it. From a business-minded individual, blood may seem like a costly good, but from a societal standpoint, I believe a blood market can benefit the greater good.

  • Renee Katz

    The idea of having a market to sell one’s blood is not unheard of as we have the Red Cross and receive some form of incentive in return for our donations. I certainly think that if the blood market were made legal, it could have many benefits. Not only could it have the potential capability to improve older generations lives, but also could have a positive impact on any generation, really. By creating a legal market for blood and selling it for some monetary value, this could attract many suppliers, in turn increasing the blood supply available to all including those who are ill or injured and are in vital need. Recently, there has been a shortage of blood supply, but an increased incentive to give blood could help stabilize this situation by increasing the amount of people willing to give blood and therefore increasing the quantity of blood available. As mentioned in this article, participating in this market would be completely voluntary once made legal, so no harm is being done. As long as this market is regulated and monitored, I think both parties can benefit from this system.

  • Patricia S.

    I agree, if it is proven to be beneficial to the elderly of our society, that a legalized blood market could prove to be a good thing. However, I think the potential negative consequences must also be addressed by regulations to insure the benefit is not outweighed by the harm that could come to the suppliers and the purchasers.
    One of the most important things to regulate would be the health of the suppliers (testing for any health issues) to eliminate possible bad blood sources. Another would be tracking/regulating how much blood can be sold and when to stop young people from trying to rely too heavily on the income from their blood and putting their health at risk by trying to sell too much or at intervals that are not healthy. One other thing to consider is further research and resulting regulations regarding how much blood is needed to provide optimal benefit to older people receiving the blood. It wouldn’t be much good if an elderly person received too much blood with negative consequences to their health.
    If and when these things can be properly regulated, then I say roll up your sleeves young people & let the blood run green and old people get ready to think like a young person again!

  • Alexander T.

    I think legalizing this would be a fantastic idea. I’m sure the government would eventually come to love the idea as well, after all, it would give them additional items/markets to regulate and most importantly of all… more items/markets to tax.

    On a less sarcastic note, if the benefits of this preliminary study prove to be true in humans, how can a government or organization not allow this…? How can we as moral individuals not allow this…? As many others have already pointed out, this is pretty much already happening today and this is simply the next logical step.

  • Lilian Ocanto

    If further research can prove that the application of younger blood improves the memory and learning of the elderly, I can imagine a new world of marketability! Considering that people today, specially celebrities and socialites, spend thousands of dollars and willingly extract their own blood for a mere facial, the notion of improving ones quality of life by incorporating a third’s person blood seems like a reasonable, understandable, and yet very profitable, need. In a legal and completely regulated market, willing sellers can profit from their renewable goods while benefiting society as a whole; taxed transactions and customers who improve their quality of life which at the same time reduces subsidized health care cost usually associated with the elderly.

    (Blood facial, See here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/11/kim-kardashian-blood-facial_n_2853657.html)

  • Karl Nebel

    While a market for blood sales would act as a facilitator of regulations, several ethical questions come to mind. Firstly, the creation of a blood market, much like the existing pharmaceutical market would lead to significant competition. Firms would have to contend for a rather narrow (the elderly) consumer base and a limited supply of willing, able donors. This, coupled with the cost of FDA approval would drive blood prices up to compensate for the cost of supplying the blood. These higher prices would limit the access to blood to wealthy consumers, adding yet another facet to the widening economic gap in America. These higher prices would also drive poorer consumers to seek out clandestine blood markets. Such markets wouldn’t have the same regulation and may supply harmful or tainted blood to customers without any other choice.

    Finally, in order to gain a competitive advantage, firms could act as loss leaders (drive down their prices) by resorting to “blood farming,” a practice wherein “patients” are taken against their will and drained regularly. This behavior has already been observed in India, where clandestine blood markets exist. (Source: http://www.wired.com/2011/06/red-market-excerpt/all/ )As this has already occurred abroad, it’s not a stretch to imagine it happening in the US as a response to market demand.

  • Dan Lynch

    I am not sure if it so much the idea of a blood market being illegal, but whether its moral and/or ethical. If blood of a young person could help an older person then that young person could have an ethical obligation to help, but would they without incentive of an open market? Since it is currently illegal for that young person to sell their blood, the same blood used to save lives from traumatic injury collected through donation could be used for preventative medicine for the older person. Now is it ethically right to leave the person in the emergency room without blood or would this be a competing good in the open market? Now who should get priority for the blood? The person with the deepest pockets? Since people who can donate don’t, what about a blood tax? Like social security that those who are young have to donate their blood so those who are injured or need the blood as a preventive medicine to limit memory loss? Lastly does the Government have the constitutional right to tax the blood of a person? The only answer I have is if you can donate you should, and buying and selling of blood will only complicate an ethical issue with numerous layers.

  • Fatima Kabani

    I am curious as to why there are profitable opportunities today when donating plasma, eggs, sperms, etc but not with blood? Could it just be too messy (literally and figuratively speaking)? Movie tickets and similar incentives just don’t make sense when compared to the incentives given for the other bodily fluids/ parts.
    I am not much of a horror-flick type of person but I recently saw a movie trailer for the movie The Purge; a fictional story of a strict totalitarian rule where they permit one day out of the year for all crime to be legal. In reality, this is created as a means of artificial population control, but this does spark the thought of reduced crimes for the rest of the days in the year (I am scaring myself just writing this comment).
    What if we proposed a specific time-frame (possibly one month or 3 weeks out of the year), where it would be legal to profit from donating blood and use it for the good of man-kind? This could be a better solution for the strong concerns about this process being highly regulated and hospitals would benefit from a wealthy blood supply.

    • enrique

      I am intrigued by your “time window” proposal, as this would allow us to run a natural experiment allowing us to test various methods of allocating blood supplies.

  • Charles Lawson

    The creation of a legal blood market is needed due to the almost constant blood shortages (according to the emails I get from blood banks). There is clearly not enough incentive for the general population to donate enough blood keep up with the demand. I would love to see a legal market for blood sales take form in this country in order to alleviate this constant demand. Taking it a step further, blood related financial and insurance products could be created. With consistently rising healthcare costs, consumers could opt to drive down their premiums through blood donations. I believe this monetary incentive would be extremely attractive to consumers as well as the health care market as a whole.

  • enrique

    These are excellent comments. I especially appreciate the comments from Karl, Patricia, and Jose, who emphasize the ethical aspects and the possible negative egalitarian consequences of “blood markets.” But in reply, I would argue that illegal (and unregulated!) blood markets already exist, and that the absence of a legal market benefits the wealthy (to the extent the price of blood is higher in an illegal market than a legal one). By the way, I thank Mohammed, Marleen, and Karl for pointing out that illegal markets already exist in this domain.) My main point, then, is that legal markets would benefit a larger class of buyers than the status quo. This is a prediction, of course, so why not legalize such a market in one place and see what happens?

  • Josh H

    I think the real point here would be to find the actual demand. In general, the elderly tend to have more morally conscious, therefore the question becomes will they jump that moral wall. Let’s say that there is a verifiable benefit of blood consumption, however the effects are minimal. What is the amount of benefit that is required to enter the market? Once the demand has been established, then of course a market it the best way to handle the situation. I feel that it should be a fairly regulated market just due to the medical and ethical questions that could be raised.

  • Mohan G

    I certainly agree on the benefits that legalization could bring to the market. It is legal today to sell human body organs like kidney, eyes etc that really saves lives. Morals are for the living and if anyone is on the death bed one should do everything in the power to keep the life. So I would say it is not only moral but ethical to voluntarily donate organs or blood for a greater good.

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