Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Life-saving incentives

LifeSharers advisor Alexander Tabarrok published a paper titled "Live-Saving Incentives: Consequences, costs and solutions to the organ shortage" in the Library of Economics and Liberty. It's an excellent explanation of how incentives can reduce or eliminate the organ shortage in the United States.

Here are some excerpts:

"Our current organ procurement system relies solely on altruism to motivate donation. Altruism is a fine thing but it is in short supply. Repeated exhortations from the government and organizations interested in organ procurement, including campaigns featuring Michael Jordan as a spokesperson, have not greatly increased organ donation in the past and are unlikely to do so in the future. We may hope for love but should plan on self-interest."

"Resources owned in common tend to be under-supplied and over-utilized. No one wants to pay to restock a lake, for example, when the benefits of restocking flow to everyone regardless of whether or not they helped to pay for the restocking. As a result, open fisheries are almost always driven to depletion. The solution is to close the fishery to those who do not help to restock the lake....Everyone wants to fish in the organ pool but no one has a direct incentive to “restock the lake” by signing their organ donor card. As with fishing lakes, a solution to this problem is to close the organ pool to non-donors."

"Consider a no-give, no-take policy for organs. Under this system in order to receive an organ you must have previously signed your organ donor card. Under no-give, no-take, signing your organ donor card can be thought of as joining a club, the club of people who have agreed to share their organs. Or one can think of signing the organ donor card as the price that you pay for organ insurance....Something like no-give, no-take is currently being implemented privately. is an 'organ club.' Anyone can join. Members agree that if their organs should become available they will go first to a fellow LifeSharers member. (If everyone joins LifeSharers, it becomes equivalent to no-give, no-take.) Although reciprocity proposals like no-give, no-take have moral advantages it is important to remember that their primary purpose is to increase the incentive to donate and therefore to increase the total number of organs available."

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