Saturday, December 06, 2003

Financial incentives for organ donors -- a good dog that can't hunt

The idea of using financial incentives to increase organ donation rates has been getting a lot of attention in the press lately. I personally think that a free market in human organs would end the organ shortage and save thousands of lives a year. But there are two big problems with the idea.

First, buying and selling organs is illegal in the United States. Second, that's not likely to change in the foreseeable future because there is a lot of opposition to the idea. Politically, an organ market is a non-starter.

Over 83,600 people are on the transplant waiting list in the United States. The waiting list keeps getting longer, even though somebody gets removed from the list every 90 minutes because they've died. The people who need organ transplants literally can't wait for the political sea change that is needed to let financial incentives fix the organ shortage.

That's one of the reasons LifeSharers is so important. LifeSharers harnesses the power of incentives, but does so in a way that is already legal. It also does so in a way that avoids the controversy surrounding financial incentives. The idea that organs should go first to organ donors strikes most people as fair, while the idea of buying and selling body parts leaves many people uneasy.

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