Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Markets in Everything: Organ Sales

WSJ Front Page: Amid a severe kidney-donor shortage, an idea long considered anathema in the medical community is gaining new currency: payments for people willing to give up a kidney.

Under the current system, patients who need a kidney transplant are put on a waiting list for kidneys from deceased donors, which are handed out based on geography, waiting time and various medical factors. Waits vary across the country, and easily top five or six years in many areas. Those who have a willing, living donor can bypass the list altogether and get transplants right away. But the donors must give their kidneys freely and attest that no one is paying them to do so.

Last year, there were about 70,000 people on the waiting list, and about 4,400 people on the waiting list died.

Dr. Arthur Matas envisions a plan where donors would be able to sell their kidneys, regardless of motivation. A set price, he says, could be established by the government and paid by the recipient's insurance, typically Medicare. The kidney would go to whoever is at the top of the waiting list, rich or poor. Potential sellers would be medically and psychologically screened to make sure they are suitable donors. Afterwards, they would be tracked by the government to see what impact the kidney sale had on their life and overall health.

Proposition 1: Anytime you have congestion or shortages, it's almost guaranteed that market pricing is absent.

Proposition 2: Market pricing will almost always reduce or eliminate congestion and shortages.

Conclusion: Market pricing for kidneys would eliminate the artificial shortage and save thousands of lives every year.


At 11/13/2007 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why stop at kidneys? Let’s sell hearts from living donors, too. We can call it the free dead market. I’m just kidding, but it brings up an interesting point. People can go to war and willingly die for their country, but they can’t willingly donate an organ to save someone’s life. Why not? Isn’t it their life to give?

At 11/13/2007 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a living kidney donor. I had the extensive evaluations and psychological evaluation to determine my reasoning for donating. The evaluation, surgery and follow-up care did not cost me a dime.

That being said, it was still very expensive. I was not able to work for 6 weeks. Transportation to and from the facility are not covered (Flint, MI to Mayo in Rochester, MN). The lodging and meals while in Rochester was not covered. There are many donors in this situation; ready and willing to donate an organ, but unable to handle the extra cost associated with the procedure.

Although I think that paying people for organ donations would result in the poorer population opting for the procedure, I still think that some type of payment should be made. As the system stands now, your only benefit of the donation is the satisfaction of extending someone else's life (I guess that should be good enough). Financially crippling of the donor is not often seen as a issue.

At 11/13/2007 5:34 PM, Blogger HKyriazi said...

Responding to Victor, payment to compensate for lost wages and travel expenses has always been legal, and is now being done by a new federal program, and a dozen states are offering tax write-offs for such expenses, as mentioned in today's (11/13/07) cover story by Laura Meckler ("Kidney Shortage Inspires A Radical Idea: Organ Sales").

Responding to Walt G., I agree that a person has a right to commit a productive form of suicide by having his or her body harvested of organs to save the lives of many others, but no doctor I'd care to know would conduct the surgery.

At 11/13/2007 6:40 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Why donate if one can sell?

Couldn't the surviving family members use the money?

Why should organs be any different than any other commodity?

Its one thing if its a family member or close friend but to a total stranger?!?!

At 11/13/2007 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Payment for travel or lost income is indeed legal. The problem is that there is that this is not covered by the recipient's insurance, or by any other agency. The recipient must directly pay the donor for those charges, if they are able. There are a small amount of states that have tax write-offs. Michigan is not one of them. I wish I knew of a federal program. As of this time, I was not aware that a federal program existed.

At 11/14/2007 5:12 AM, Blogger Tim Worstall said...

There's one country which does have a paid market for human kidnies. Iran.
There's one country that does not have a shortage of human kidnies. Iran.
No, it's not a coincidence.

At 11/17/2007 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" juandos said...

Why donate if one can sell?"

Smartest thing I think I ever heard you say.

I'll sell one of mine for $500,000.
Other options for sale:

Pinky toes: Buy one get one free $750,000
Appendix: $300,000
Tail bone: $600,000
Lower ribs: Make an offer


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