Saturday, 5 September 2009

Putting a price on organ donation

An interview including Alex Tabarrok (of Marginal Revolution fame), Sally Satel, and Frank Delmonico, covering the range of viewpoints on the subject of organ donation.
Organ trafficking allegations in New Jersey this summer cast a new spotlight on the debate over the best ways to get more people to donate legally. Last year more than 4,500 people in the US died waiting for a kidney, and all sides acknowledge that the need for organs overwhelms the supply. Beyond that, disagreements flare up about which incentives are ethical and practical.
Me, I think we should have a market in organs, but many people find the idea of trading such things repugnant. In fact organ markets are one of the classic examples of what Al Roth refers to as "repugnant markets".

1 comment:

Dave said...

As the death toll from the organ shortage mounts, public opinion will eventually support an organ market. Changes in public policy will then follow.

In the mean time, there is an already-legal way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. UNOS, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Non-donors should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.