In 1994, a seven year-old boy from California, Nicholas Green, was vacationing in Italy with his family. He was shot and killed during an automobile robbery in Calabria, in southern Italy. His parents agreed to donate his organs and corneas to seven Italians waiting for transplants. His parents spoke openly to the media about their decision. The dramatic increase in organ donation in Italy, a country with a historically low rate of organ donation, has been referred to as “the Nicholas Effect” (l’effeto Nicholas).
A television movie, “Nicholas’ Gift” starring Jaime Lee Curtis, was based on the story. Biannually since 2001, the World Transplant Games Federation has held the Nicholas Cup, a skiing competition reserved for children who have undergone a transplant. A bell tower memorial in honor of Nicholas was constructed north of Bodega Bay, off Hwy 1.
The Nicholas Effect is a clear example of the social nature of exchange. Most countries have banned the sale of human organs. It is what Michael Walzer would call a “blocked exchange.” Organ donation reflects moral, communal and associative logics of exchange.