Saturday, June 10, 2006

Postrel on the Kidney Shortage

In today's LA Times, Virgina Postrel, an economics writer and kidney donor, makes the case for allowing the price to bring supply into balance with demand:

More than 66,000 Americans are languishing on the national waiting list for kidneys — 10 times the number of kidneys transplanted from deceased donors each year. And the list keeps growing, with a queue of more than 100,000 expected by 2010....

The most obvious way to increase the supply of any scarce commodity — paying more for it — is illegal. Federal law blocks transplant centers, patients and insurers from compensating donors in an above-board process, with full legal and medical protections. The growing and inevitable "transplant tourism" industry, and even shadier organ brokers, are the kidney equivalents of back-alley abortionists.

Legalized financial incentives would encourage more people to volunteer their organs. Donors would probably still be relatively rare, just as surrogate mothers are. Many, like me, would still help out without payment, just as some people get paid for giving blood or fighting fires while others do it for free.

Paying donors need not hurt the poor, any more than paying dialysis centers does. Compensation could, in fact, help low-income Americans, who are disproportionately likely to suffer from kidney disease.

For a previous post on this topic, click here.