The chart above illustrates a very serious and escalating health care crisis in America: The number of kidney transplant operations has remained flat for the last six years, and there were actually fewer last year (16,968) than in 2006 (17,095). Meanwhile, the number of registered transplant candidates continues to grow, at an average rate of more than 4,500 new candidates in every year since 2005. In 2010, the chances of receiving a kidney for the almost 88,000 patients on the waiting list fell below 20% for the first time ever, and those odds probably won't improve any time soon.
Reason? It's illegal for Americans to receive any kind of financial compensation for providing a kidney to save the life of a stranger, and without financial compensation there's no way to solve the growing kidney shortage. The number of kidney donations and transplant operations will remain flat, the kidney waiting list will grow, and the pain, suffering and death for those waiting will continue to escalate as the waiting list becomes a sure death sentence for a large majority of patients.
By relying exclusively on altruistic kidney donation in the supposedly market-friendly U.S., the kidney shortage will surely continue to worsen. But there's now hope for a more rational, market-based approach in historically market-unfriendly China, according to AEI scholar Sally Satel in Slate.com
"Last month, the China's health ministry announced a proposal that could expand the pool of organs available for transplant surgeries. Huang told the Chinese press that his office was considering several possible incentives. These include tax rebates, deduction of transplant-related hospital fees, medical insurance, tuition waivers for donors' family members, or deduction of burial fees for people who donated in death.
Unfortunately, much of the international transplant establishment—including the World Health Organization, the Transplantation Society, and the World Medical Association—focuses exclusively on obliterating illicit organ sales. While this may seem like a reasonable approach to abhorrent practices, in reality it is a lethal prescription."
"The only way to save lives and starve underground markets abroad is to provide more transplants at home. And the only way to do that is to break radically—and ethically—with a status quo that forbids an informed donor to be rewarded for saving the life of a stranger."