The graph above highlights the grim reality for those on the growing kidney waiting list - demand for kidney transplants keeps growing, while the supply of transplant operations is basically flat.
As of today 83,573 patients are on the waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, and only about 20% of those patients will actually get a kidney this year. As recently as the early 1990s, patients on the waiting list had a greater than 50 percent chance of receiving a kidney in a given year, but the situation has worsened every year since 1991. Almost 13 patients on the waiting list die every single day of the year, and most of those deaths would be easily preventable, except that a 1984 federal law (co-sponsored by Al Gore) makes it illegal for organ donors to receive any financial compensation.
Think about it: Everybody involved in a kidney transplant operation gets paid and profits financially: the surgeons, the nurses, the hospitals, the pharmaceutical companies, the companies that make the hospital equipment and supplies, etc., in other words everybody EXCEPT the kidney donor, who gets nothing? How can that possibly make sense?
Basic Economics: When the demand for kidneys exceeds the supply by a factor of 5 and increases every year, simple economics tells us that the chronic kidney shortage results from an artificial price that is too low, in this case zero. The only way to effectively and permanently solve the kidney shortage is to legalize the victimless crime of accepting financial compensation for donating a kidney.
Read more here in my Washington Post editorial "More Kidney Donors Are Needed to Meet a Rising Demand," co-authored with my colleague Sally Satel, resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute, and author of "When Altruism Isn't Enough: The Case for Compensating Kidney Donors."