NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 22, 2008

Because of the global organ shortage, thousands of patients die unnecessarily each year for want of a kidney.   And because organ sales are illicit, corrupt brokers may deceive indigent donors about the nature of transplant surgery, cheat them of payment, and ignore their postsurgical needs and long-term complications.  The only way out is to increase the supply of available kidneys -- whether by a cash payment to potential donors or through some other form of compensation, says Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Unfortunately, most of the world transplant establishment does not share this view.  Instead, organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international Transplantation Society focus on the obliteration of illicit markets.

The latest country to "get tough" is the Philippines:

  • A few weeks ago, the government banned the sale of kidneys to foreigners.
  • The reverberations are already being felt; a recent headline in the Jerusalem Post read, "Kidney Transplant Candidates in Limbo after Philippines Closes Gates" (Israel has one of the lowest rates of donation in the world, so the government pays for transplant surgery performed outside the country).

Similarly, patients from Qatar who traveled to Manila are "looking for alternative solutions," according to The Peninsula.  Many had turned to the Philippines because countries such as China, India and Pakistan have begun cracking down on illicit organ sales.

But the prohibition policy urged on these countries will only end up pushing organ markets further underground, or cause them to blossom elsewhere.  World health authorities should direct their passion toward promoting a legal apparatus for exchange, says Satel.

Source: Sally Satel, "Why We Need a Market for Human Organs," American Enterprise Institute, May 16, 2008.

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