Skip to main content

High School Students Debate on Financial Incentives for Organ Donation

Readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks may remember Zakariyya Lacks’ opinion about the scientific use of his mother’s tissue:

Them doctors say her cells is so important and did all this and that to help people. But it didn’t do no good for her, and it don’t do no good for us. If me and my sister need something, we can’t even go see a doctor cause we can’t afford it. Only people that can get any good from my mother cells is the people that got money, and whoever sellin them cells – they get rich off our mother and we got nothing. (pg 246-247, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks).

Had financial incentives been offered for the use of Henrietta’s tissue, her family’s circumstances may have been entirely different.

National Forensics League public forum debate students spent the month of April considering a topic that heavily relates to what the Lacks family has grappled with for years. The April 2011 Public Forum Debate topic was “Resolved: The United States federal government should permit the use of financial incentives to encourage organ donation.”

As readers of HeLa know, this is a controversial topic, which we have considered at length in our community wide discussion of Rebecca Skloot’s book, as well as at our Go Big Read capstone events. What is your stance on this public forum debate topic?

The National Forensics League, based in Ripon, Wisconsin, aims to “promote high school and middle school speech and debate activities as a means to develop a student’s essential life skills and values.” Public Forum Debate topics are worded as resolutions in order to advocate solving a problem by taking a position, and students must develop arguments for both sides of the debate. Topics are decided via a nationwide vote of National Forensics League advisers. Click here for more information about NFL Public Forum Debates.

One thought on “High School Students Debate on Financial Incentives for Organ Donation

  1. I don't think a family member should gain profit from tissues and organes donations or a deceased person. It is unethitical and does not sound right… Knowing that the organs can be used to save someone is I think a good enough! And doctors do not get rich by doing transplants, the reason they are so expensive is because of the extreme complexicity of the operation and the amount of training the doctors had to go through in order to get such knowledge. The price compensates years and years of studies and research. Which all in all are done to improve our living conditions and save people.