Organ Policy Is Killing People

November 15, 2002

The shortage of human organs for transplant purposes is so severe in the United States that 17 people die each day while awaiting them. But experts point out that need not be.

An enlightened organ policy would permit people to be paid for their organs. A market for organs should do away with today's shortages, proponents suggest. After years of opposition, there are signs the American medical community might be coming around to this view.

  • The American Medical Association this year endorsed pilot testing of some form of incentive for supplying organs.
  • The United Network for Organ Sharing -- which coordinates the transplant system -- gingerly made a similar proposal, as did a panel of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.
  • Economist David Kasserman has just published a book urging a market for organs.
  • A new collection of essays called "Entrepreneurial Economics" has two chapters inveighing against the ban on payments for organs.

The ban can be traced back to 1984, when Congress forbade any payments for organs.

Nobody is suggesting payments to live donors. The suggestion has been made to offer $2,000 or so to families to defray the funeral costs of anyone who has contributed organs.

Source: Nicholas D. Kristof, "Psst! Sell Your Kidney?" New York Times, November 12, 2002.

 

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