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WSJ: Cash for Kidneys: The Case for a Market for Organs

It is time to move forward on this issue – let those in need of kidneys BUY them – it could save their lives.

WSJ:  There is a clear remedy for the growing shortage of organ donors, say Gary S. Becker and Julio J. Elias

Finding a way to increase the supply of organs would reduce wait times and deaths, and it would greatly ease the suffering that many sick individuals now endure while they hope for a transplant. The most effective change, we believe, would be to provide compensation to people who give their organs—that is, we recommend establishing a market for organs.

Paying donors for their organs would finally eliminate the supply-demand gap. In particular, sufficient payment to kidney donors would increase the supply of kidneys by a large percentage, without greatly increasing the total cost of a kidney transplant.

We have estimated how much individuals would need to be paid for kidneys to be willing to sell them for transplants. These estimates take account of the slight risk to donors from transplant surgery, the number of weeks of work lost during the surgery and recovery periods, and the small risk of reduction in the quality of life.

Our conclusion is that a very large number of both live and cadaveric kidney donations would be available by paying about $15,000 for each kidney. That estimate isn’t exact, and the true cost could be as high as $25,000 or as low as $5,000—but even the high estimate wouldn’t increase the total cost of kidney transplants by a large percentage.

Few countries have ever allowed the open purchase and sale of organs, but Iranpermits the sale of kidneys by living donors. Scattered and incomplete evidence from Iran indicates that the price of kidneys there is about $4,000 and that waiting times to get kidneys have been largely eliminated.

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