In Defense Of Kidney Markets

Alexander Berger, who on Thursday is donating a kidney to someone he doesn’t know, took to the NYT to advocate for the legalization of selling kidneys. Samir Chopra isn’t convinced:

My worry for the organ market that Berger has in mind is quite simple: in our current economy, it will rapidly devolve into a situation where the number of economically desperate donors will bring down the price of organs to a level that ensures that organ donors will receive little compensation for their contributions. The health of those that can afford organ transplants in our current healthcare system will be enhanced, yes. But it has been enhanced by an economic system that immiserates people sufficiently enough to make them want to give parts of their bodies to others for inadequate compensation.

Roger McShane counters:

[D]onors like Mr Berger see only the slightest increase in their risk of dying from kidney disease. And their altruism is likely to lead to more than a decade of improved and prolonged life for the recipient. Donations are also cost-effective. As we noted in a previous report on the topic, “the cost of one kidney operation and a lifetime’s supply of anti-rejection drugs equals that of three years’ dialysis.” And we have proof that such systems do fill the needs of the ill. Iran adopted a system of paying kidney donors in 1988 and within 11 years it became the only country in the world to clear its waiting list for transplants.

The Dish has covered this issue pretty extensively over the years – some representative links here, here, here and here.