Repost: Efficient Charity: Cheap Utilons via bone marrow registration

by atorm 1 min read30th Jan 201217 comments



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.