Why Is There a Shortage of Organ Donations?

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4 Responses

  1. I am just a humble practicing lawyer who stumbled upon this post because it deals with China, but I do like the issues you raise here. I find it fascinating how unwilling Americans tend to be to look at issues like this from new perspectives. I am NOT a cultural relativist by any means (and I have not eaten ANY meat for at least 15 years), but it never ceases to amaze me how Americans so quickly dub Koreans and Chinese as “inhumane” for eating dog and/or cat, without for a moment stopping to think that it is a cultural difference, not really a moral one.

    The Koreans get very offended by this and say that they cannot understand why Americans get so up in arms about Koreans eating dog while at the same time allowing so many people to go homeless.

    I wonder if we might be doing the same thing here with organ donations. I certainly am NOT calling for involuntary donations, but I agree we need to explore and talk about our various options.

  2. Kate Litvak says:

    Alternatively, you can tax people who refuse to become donors. Same result, better for the treasury.

  3. Chris says:

    I could be wrong, but even if you volunteer to be an organ donor the ultimate decision to actually donate the organs resides with the next of kin.

    Many next of kin refuse because they don’t want the body cut up after death.

  4. Mark says:

    I think you are right that the decision lies with the next of kin. That makes sense, because it is the family that deals with the negative consequences.

    One of my economics professors (David Kaserman) from college has kidney disease, and has written extensively on this issue. He argues for a free market approach where the family members of donors are directly compensated. There is a lot of opposition to this approach because people are uncomfortable with the idea of organs being bought and sold. I personally think the issue is blown out of proportion. People won’t get rich off of electing to give the organs (I think he argues that the market price would level off at less than $1000); it is simply a way to compensate familes for making an often hard decision during a very difficult time. Further, the argument that it is wrong to buy or sell organs can be applied just as strongly to the use of tax breaks or other incentives.

    The opt-out idea or the tax deduction would both work. However, I think the mandatory nature of the opt-out method is unnecessary, and the tax approach seems like it would be extremely inefficient. The bottom line is that there are costs associated with organ donation, and the current market price, i.e. $0, results in a shortage in the market. I think that it only makes sense to allow people who will benefit from the organs to compensate those who bear the costs of giving up the organs.

    Regardless of the method, it is an absolute tragedy that so many people die every year because of a problem that could be solved so easily. I think it is time for those who have a moral objection to any system that isn’t purely a “donation” need to look closely at the consequences.