In this forum post I hope to summarize my independent personal findings on the effectiveness on non-monetary body based donations. These primary include: drug trails, organ & blood product donations. The overall summary is that these acts are effective, of course some more than others, but potentially work on infrastructure and larger scale ideas could have a larger impact. At the very least I hope this to be a rough summary of some of the data behind these issues and creating a springboard for these issues.
My criteria for thinking about these are mostly in line with other effectiveness criteria:
- The number of people affected by the act/product.
- Marginal benefit of the trail/Is it neglected? For example: cancer already has lots of stuff but very few stuff about ageing.
- Chance of success
- Time investment/monetary reward/Opportunity cost (what else could you be doing, how are you compensated)
The number of people affected by the aliment being treated is highly dependent on the trail. A good summary can be found here: Causes of death globally: What do people die from? - Our World in Data
Importantly here is that different trails have very different likelihoods of success a lovely table can be found here: https://www.acsh.org/news/2020/06/11/clinical-trial-success-rates-phase-and-therapeutic-area-14845 .
This compliments the work of 1Day Sooner; vaccine trails are very likely to succeed and typically have a large impact so a very good way to make an impact and additionally has some great scale, unlike some other issues. There are some trails which pay well and potentially that money could be useful. Some trails giving £3,000 and that could then be given to highly effective charities, although I’m aware that money will need to cover the cost of doing such a trail. Also reviews of such things, like FluCamps ,have been somewhat mixed. Of course trails can extend to many other areas and could give breakthroughs in antiaging, prions or mental health/psychology trails so lots of potential.
Firstly there is a shortage of organs (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18261540/). Lots of potentially benefit (https://www.organdonor.gov/learn/organ-donation-statistics) not many but still unknown long term effects for living donors. 6,000 living donations take place a year out of 40,000 transplants so potential for high impact. There are longer waiting lists for some organs (https://www.organdonor.gov/learn/organ-donation-statistics). Highish opportunity cost in terms of recovering from surgery, around a week staying in hospital https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/organ-transplantation/kidney/at-the-transplant-centre/recovery-at-the-transplant-centre/ but that is for receiving an organ so I could imagine it may be less time. On the other hand, it may have a serious long term effect on overall productivity. I have heard of some EA’s donating organs though.
On the whole if living organ donation isn’t something you are keen to do then you could always make sure you are on your countries organ donation list as afterlife you have a larger impact with the potential to save up to 8 lives. So if this interests you make sure you are signed up to donate organs. One thing to note is that opt-in/out-out policies aren’t the major thing that affect supply (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8128443/), other issues which are bigger in size need to be addressed such as public education, awareness and health system structures. Potentially solving these problems could led to more impact than just the simple donating your organs and save 8 lives figure. One donation I discovered was cornea transplants (I believe they are also called eye donations) some data shows that over 10 million people are blind in such a way that they could benefit from an eye transplant and has an over 95% success rate (https://www.nvisioncenters.com/eye-surgery/transplant/). This complaints the highly effective charity Helen Keller International (one of GiveWell’s top charities) which aims at intervening at the root cause of blindness.
There are many distinct blood products and my understanding is that these are filtered and produced when you donate blood so likely supply and demand is very efficiently meet, given ample supply of the initial blood product. An EA forum post has already been done on blood donation (https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/jqCCM3NvrtCYK3uaB/blood-donation-generally-not-that-effective-on-the-margin) so not too much I can add. The blood products are similar with their opportunity costs, at around an hour every month given regular donations, and chance of success is high due to low waste. Blood products are very efficiently used so it’s likely that any donation you make will be utilized as supply and demand is efficiently maintained with good transportation and storage. Due to this it does mean that blood products are sometimes shipped abroad where supply is much lower so does increase the effectiveness of donating blood products. Could have more impact in off seasons where there is an increased demand such as winter.
Blood donations from Black, Asian and Ethnic minorities in England and America are low, a similar story occurs with bone marrow donation, so a particular benefit you may be able to give.
The overwhelming theme is that these medical donations are thankfully very efficient and so it’s unlikely that your impact would be wasted. There is a possibility with medical trails of failure but due to their scale they also have a large upside so a higher risk higher reward scenario it seems. Most of these ideas are relatively effective but lack real scale to maximise a person’s singular impact. To have a larger scale within these fields would likely be from improving infrastructure and potentially doing novel medical research creating potential alternatives. But if these don’t suit your current skill set and you are an in demand donor you can make an impact.
Due to the diverse nature of medical trails I believe there is still a bit of potential for researching effective trails that you can sign up for not just the challenge trails covered by 1Day sooner but also anti-aging trails and psychology trails so if anyone is interested or wants to discuss please get in contact with me.