NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Modest Proposal on Kidney Donation

January 10, 2011

Here is the idea:  A prisoner donates a kidney and receives compensation only when his or her sentence is complete -- no shortened sentences, no parole, no special considerations.  The organ goes to the next person on the national transplant waiting list, the way all organs from anonymous donors do.  The advantages are considerable, say Sally Satel, a psychiatrist, and Ira Brody, a retired marketing executive.

  • First, a patient languishing on dialysis is rescued.
  • Second, the government realizes tremendous savings; dialysis costs Medicare approximately $72,000 per person each year.
  • Third, a cushion of financial security offers the prisoner a better chance at successful reentry into society, a notoriously fragile period.

Prisoners serving at least a five-year sentence would be eligible for donation.  Why five years?  To allay legitimate concerns that the individual is making a hasty decision to cash in.  The individual would be fully aware that the donation would have no bearing on parole, thus neutralizing the concern that an inmate is relinquishing an organ to secure his or her release, say Satel and Brody.

  • For each patient removed from dialysis, the dialysis payer (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurer) would put $40,000 in an account for the prisoner.
  • This would be managed by a state-approved agency and distributed to the prisoner on release as an annuity over a designated period of time.

Source: Sally Satel and Ira Brody, "A Modest Proposal on Kidney Donation," Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2011.

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