The Myth of Privatized Organ Harvesting
Both Michael Bay’s The Island and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go tell stories about an alternate reality where human clones exist in spare parts depots, waiting ready to contribute their organs whenever they’re needed. The similarities between these works sort of end there, with a notable exception: the implicit assumption that private industry/private science has initiated the push for using clones as harvesting agents. Ishiguro’s work even goes a step further, as Miss Emily hints that world governments are eventually forced into endorsing the practice. In Never Let Me Go, human expectation of longevity is the culprit in the mainstreaming of organ harvesting from clones.
While I’m generalizing, I’m going to post one of the assumptions I’m working with: speculative fiction explores human emotion in new scientific/technological contexts in order to (1)reflect back on the world that we live in (i.e. show us as readers why the problems they are presenting are relevant moral issues) or (2)genuinely explore the human element of such an alternative reality as a pure thought experiment.
I don’t think either of these works succeeds in the first way, because the major moral issue they explore is internally inconsistent. More on this in a second. Of the remaining options, I think Ishiguro’s work is an example of that second purpose of speculative fiction–Never Let Me Go’s world is intentionally placed in the realm of possible worlds rather than probable worlds–Ishiguro is not so much a prophet as an explorer. I think this is why Ishiguro’s book remains compelling. He offers the world as a postulate, not as something that will happen or might happen, but something that might have or could have but didn’t. What makes the world of The Island so unconvincing (among other things) is its depiction a corporation harvesting organs from clones remaining so well-hidden despite its high-profile clientele. It’s little more than a conspiracy theory plot that glosses over the issues raised by presenting the exploitation of human clones. Before I start going off on The Island, I think it’s time I explain why neither of these works succeed in the first way.
The answer is easy. Private companies try to make money. Harvesting organs from clones is not a profitable venture. Here’s why:
1) Genetically identical organ transplants can still fail
2a)It’s much cheaper to grow individual organs than it is to grow a human, raise him/her to adulthood, and harvest the organs from them
2b)Growing individual organs doesn’t have a lot of hairy moral/ethical issues, like, I dunno, killing people
3) if any organization could make clones, socialize/condition them, and then hide them from the rest of world, would selling the clones’ organs make them the most money? such an organization would be able to (a)make organs individually and (b)make a lot more money using the clones as conditioned slave labor to go for option (a)
There are plenty of reasons why private organizations (or public ones, for that matter) won’t resort to organ harvesting from clones, but very few (by this I mean none) compelling arguments for why they would. Although there may be various remaining ways in which human clones might be exploited in the future, I think I’ve presented sufficient evidence as to why organ harvesting is not one of those ways.