NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Financial Incentives In Organ Markets

June 8, 2000

More than 200,000 people receive benefits for end stage renal disease, many of whom will potentially need kidney transplants. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of donated kidneys and other organs. The United Network for Organ Sharing estimates that the inadequate supply of organs causes over 4,000 deaths per year as patients requiring transplants are unable to obtain them in time. Yet relatively small financial incentives could cure the organ shortage problem, say economists.

A recent survey of college students found that people were more willing to donate organs at death if there was a financial incentive. It found:

  • If kidneys (the most demanded organ and easily donated) were bought at $100, the number of donated kidneys would increase by 50 percent.
  • If kidneys were bought at $1,000, the number of donated kidneys would more than double.
  • And at a price of $1,000, the kidney shortages could be solved.

It is illegal under U.S. law to purchase organs; but $1,000 in compensation to the families of donors for medical bills or funeral expenses, or to living donors willing to donate a spare kidney, appears to many economists to be the most effective way to meet the demand for transplantable organs.

Source: A. Frank Adams III, A.H. Barnett, and David L. Kaserman, "Markets For Organs: The Question of Supply," Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1999.


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