Repost: Efficient Charity: Cheap Utilons via bone marrow registration

by atorm1 min read30th Jan 201217 comments


Personal Blog


DISCLAIMER: This article was posted a few days ago in Main. If you read it there, you probably don't need to read it again, although there is an additional paragraph at the bottom that might interest you. I am posting it again because I didn't quite understand how posts tend to show up on the site and because I want to get as many eyes on this article as possible.

This topic is not really related to the things normally discussed here, but I think it's really important, and it might interest Less Wrongers, especially since many of us are interested in ethics and utility calculations that are essentially cost-benefit analyses. Bone marrow donation in the United States is managed by the National Marrow Donor Program. Because typing donors for matching purposes can be costly, they often require people signing up to donate to pay a registration fee, which probably prevents a lot of people from signing up. These costs are being covered until the end of the month by a corporate sponsor, which means that right now, all you need to do if you live in the US is go to and fill out a simple questionnaire. You will be sent a kit to collect a cheek swab, and then you will be entered into the donor database. Doing this does not require you to donate if a match comes up.

The reason I think this might interest Less Wrongers is that this is a really cheap way to improve the world. According to their website, about 1 in 540 potential donors are actually asked to donate, so registering doesn't actually make it all that likely that you will be asked to do anything more. If you ARE a match for someone who needs a donation, the cost to you is at most the temporary pain of marrow extraction (many donors are asked only for blood cells), whereas the other person’s chance to live is much improved. This looks like a huge net positive.

Unfortunately I only found out about this a few days ago, and it only occurred to me [Saturday] that this might be a forum of people who would respond to the argument "you can make the world better at little cost to yourself." However, I ask that you go to the website and spend a few minutes signing up. This is like buying a 1 in 540 lottery ticket that SAVES SOMEONE’S LIFE. If the Singularity hits and an FAI can generate perfectly matched marrow for anyone who needs it from totipotency-induced cells, that will be wonderful, but this is a chance to make sure one more person gets there.

There is now only one day left in which all the costs to the donor are covered. I'm interested in the affect this might have on akrasiac behavior. If you think that signing up is a good idea, you need to do it now. If you put it off with "I'll get to it later," you are essentially saying you won't do it, unless you aren't concerned about having to pay money to sign up. Let us know in the comments if this immediate deadline served to motivate you, or, conversely, irritated you and made you choose not to sign up.



17 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:11 AM
New Comment

You can move posts from discussion to main and vice versa by editing your post and changing the field at the bottom. This carries the comments and karma with it.

Oh dear. If I do that now, what sort of absurdity will result? Can I combine articles?

You can edit the old one to include any text from this one you want (using "ETA"-"Edited To Add"), then delete this one and move the old.

I signed up. Deadlines are powerful things.

I registered, largely because of the deadline. I wasn't sacrificing other utility to do so.

There is a registration fee for US donors? Y'all are fucked up.

I've been wanting to sign up for a long time, but I can't predict which country I'll be living in a few years. The person I asked about it shrugged. Tips?

Just did it! (And donated an anchoring-effect-influenced $100.)

Signed up. Upon reflection, I believe the deadline is what let me get away with doing this right now at the expense of putting off studying for yet another hour. But it's hard to say, because I decided pretty quickly that I was going to do it, and I only came up with that explanation after the fact.

I would not have seen this in time if you hadn't reposted it--thanks for the heads up. Registered.

I got partway through signing up but then read that they expected me to keep them apprised of my address. I move enough, and lack that specific kind of conscientiousness enough, that I'm pretty sure not even my bank knows where I live. They also kept mentioning phone numbers; I don't own a telephone, but many online forms won't let me put "N/A" in that field, and the telephone number I do have via Skype will expire in October, didn't work last time it was tested, and never gets answered anyway. I am more likely to waste the organization's time trying to get ahold of me than actually be successfully contacted about a match.

Obvious workarounds for these obstacles prior to the deadline's expiration welcome.

They had a section for current mailing address and "permanent address" along with contact information for relatives who'll know where you live even if you move. (I expect to move in 9 months and to forget to update, but it seemed to have enough failsafes to addresss this)

You can also create a google e-mail reminder to change these things in October or whatever.

Okay, neat. My parents don't seem liable to go anywhere.

Edit: Done. As suspected I couldn't put N/A in the phone section but it let me get away with "0000000".

I'm glad to see you figured out how to do it. I was also going to point out that you can give them an email address that is likely to stick with you for a long time.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

I move enough, and lack that specific kind of conscientiousness enough, that I'm pretty sure not even my bank knows where I live.

Ditto. I've moved 3 times in the past year. (and will be moving again before August). So I always have to go inside to pay for my gas when the pump asks for the zip code on my card. :P

Obvious workarounds for these obstacles prior to the deadline's expiration welcome.

If you have a very trusted primary contact (family member or SO) that you see on a regular basis, you could ask to use their phone number for this (and other similar) purpose, perhaps.

[-][anonymous]9y -2

you sound awesome.

I do? How so?

[-][anonymous]9y 1

not even my bank knows where I live

I don't own a telephone

Maybe I'm weird, but that makes you awesome.