41 Percent Say It's OK to Pay Organ Donors in Cash Money

At long last, Americans are warming up to the idea of a market for all of the spare kidneys, bone marrow, liver chunks, and other life-saving organs that walking, talking, still-alive humans have to offer. 

NPR asked 3,000 people what they thought about compensating live donors. A surprising 41 percent said they were OK with the idea of paying cash for organs.

As of today, there are 114,349 people on the donor waiting list, more than 50,000 of whom are waiting for kidneys. And there are an awful lot of people walking around with a perfectly good spare one. Like Associate Editor Mike Riggs, for instance.

And while compensating kidney and liver donors is still illegal in the United States, a U.S. District Court recently ruled that some types of bone marrow donors may be compensated in a manner similar to blood, egg, and sperm donors.

NPR's numbers echo finding from a March Reason-Rupe poll, which found that:

A majority of Americans (55%) favor allowing healthy people under medical supervision to sell their organs to patients who need them for transplants. 

As in the Reason-Rupe poll, NPR found that younger people were more comfortable with the idea of paying donors.

The breakdown of approval for the different kinds of compensation is particularly interesting.

If compensation took the form of credits for health care needs, about 60 percent of Americans would support it. Tax credits and tuition reimbursement were viewed favorably by 46 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Cash for organs was seen as OK by 41 percent of respondents.

Tax credits, which are essentially identical to cash, earn an extra 5 percent approval. Perhaps people feel more comfortable laundering payments through the government?

But when the compensation is in the form of health services, the approval number shoots way up, which seems bizarre. Wouldn't the result be to incentivize donations from people who otherwise lack a way to pay for necessary health care? One explanation may be that people prefer to think of transactions involving organs as gifts (donations, you might even say). As gifts, they are part of the gift economy, in which there is a great deal of deadweight loss, but also lots of social face-saving. (Think about the difference between offering a woman $100 after spending the night together or sending an expensive bouquet to her office the next day.) But when it comes to organ donation, the face-saving could come at a cost of life-saving.

For a great piece that makes the case for calling a sale a sale, check out this Reason story by Kerry Howley on her experience as an egg "donor."

Reason TV was on the kidney selling beat back in 2008:

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  • crazyfingers||

    I remember arguing about this with one of my college professors. The same class period I was also arguing with him that terminal Americans should be allowed to take potentially life-saving medication even if it hasn't been approved by the FDA. The entire class was against me on both issues. Most people really do seem to hate individual liberty for no reason.

  • ||

    My first economics professor managed to convince the vast majority of the class that "hard" drugs, paid organ donation, and prostitution should be legal, all in our first class. Plus side: hooray, freedom! Down side: boo, people whose wills are so malleable that they completely reverse their positions in an hour!

  • crazyfingers||

    That's why I'm not particularly optimistic about the supposed growth of the libertarian youth movement. If a young person's ideology is not grounded in long-held principles then it will likely go by the wayside as soon as one becomes embroiled in the status-quo with something to lose.

  • neohiobiker||

    selling one's body for parts or sex should not be illegal it's your body and Gov't should not tell you how to use it.. Besides in the organ donor process everyone BUT the donor get either paid or life.

  • sarcasmic||

    Most people really do seem to hate individual liberty for no reason.

    Liberty basically means that you don't need to take orders or ask permission.

    When you are conditioned to take orders and ask permission to do just about anything, the concept of liberty is some scary shit.

  • crazyfingers||

    It was just quite a shocker to me at the time. Here I had seemingly intelligent people arguing that someone who otherwise is GUARANTEED to die in a month without intervention should not have the right to try a drug that might help to postpone it. Even if that drug had been approved for use in first world European countries. If a bureaucrat in D.C. had not yet signed off on it was verboten. Their argument boiled down to not knowing the long-term effects without FDA approval. What does someone who is otherwise guaranteed to die in a month care about long-term effects?? I never got a response better than "that's just the way it is."

  • sarcasmic||

    The law is the law. It is not something to be questioned. Well intentioned people put a lot of work into it, and they know best.
    Obey and you'll be just fine.

  • crazyfingers||

    Yet *somehow* I have the feeling that if it was this person's close friend or family member - or better yet him or herself - that individual would want to take every measure humanly possible regardless of government dictates.

  • sarcasmic||

    Well, yeah. They know what's best for themselves.
    It's others who don't know what's best for themselves, and that's what government is for.

  • Restoras||

    They know what's best for themselves.
    It's others who don't know what's best for themselves, and that's what government is for.

    I'm stealing this.

  • neohiobiker||

    Ba Ba no they are not well intentioned they are sheep or worse know they are so high up in Gov't that they will not have to get on a waiting list

  • CE||

    No, they're more worried about everyone else not taking orders and not asking permission. They assume they'll find a way around the rules.

  • sarcasmic||

    How do you know what to do if nobody is giving orders?

    How do you know if you're doing the right thing without asking permission?

    Only authority knows those things.

  • ||

    I remember arguing about this with one of my college professors.

    This subject was brutal in med school. It was, without fail, designed to coax out Utilitarian thinking when considering who would get a viable organ, and the value judgements many of my colleagues made were thoroughly staggering.

    The idea that a wealthy, older person should get a liver over a poor, younger person was anathema to my fellow PGY'ers. Much grief was had by your humble narrator here. And I was a TEAM REDster at the time.

  • ||

    Even if the older person getting the liver meant more people were willing to donate livers, and that more lives were saved? Even if the money from providing organs of deceased loved ones meant that families were able to rise out of poverty? That's... disappointing.

  • ||

    Tax credits, which are essentially identical to cash, earn an extra 5 percent approval. Perhaps people feel more comfortable laundering payments through the government?

    The government both purifies and makes it more "official".

  • nicole||

    Speaking of the gift economy, can anyone recommend a (libertarian) book on the subject?

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    This might be what you are looking for:

    Is Our Future Really $0

  • nicole||

    Thanks Ex, it touches on what I mean only a little bit. I'm more interested in something, I don't know, I guess socio-anthropological but with a basis in sound economics about why we tolerate the deadweight loss of the gift economy--i.e., why most people think it's better to send flowers than give cash, stuff like that. You know, something about how to understand the normals.

  • ||

    Like Associate Editor Mike Riggs, for instance.

    I would have no problems harvesting Riggs' vital organs, KMW. I'd even do it pro bono. Riggs, you are aware during an organ harvest, you are still living (brain stem must be still be intact and registering a delta wave)?

    Seriously, both "Papa" Bill and Lucy Steigerwald covered this subject as well. No links for them?

    Are you some kind of Organ Nazi, KMW?

  • AlmightyJB||

    I will be happy loan her my organ for a few hours.

  • AlmightyJB||

    ok minutes fyg.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Out of the 59% of the people who answered the question wrong, all of them who call themselves "pro-choice" should have their voter registration revoked.

    Willing to entertain a balancing revocation trigger that only applies to pro-lifers. But cmon.

  • sloopyinca||

    As in the Reason-Rupe poll, NPR found that younger people were more comfortable with the idea of paying donors.

    Well no shit. Do you think the older respondents actually want to pay someone for the kidney or liver or whatever it is they are in more immediate need of?

    You may as well ask if it's a good idea to not charge anyone over the age of 65 for any medical service. I would imagine the older the respondent the more rabid their approval.

  • sarcasmic||

    GET YOUR GOVERNMENT HANDS OF MY MEDICARE!

  • ||

    Do you think the older respondents actually want to pay someone for the kidney or liver or whatever it is they are in more immediate need of?

    The wealthy ones dying on the bad end of an organ donor list are likely to want the opportunity to pay someone.

    If they are like most people, they might disapprove of the practice if they think they won't end up on an organ donor list needing an organ that won't become available.

  • CE||

    Cash money? A check would be fine, and less likely to be stolen.

  • Restoras||

    I wonder how fast harvest clinics would be set up in Vegas?

  • ||

    Fuck cash money. I'd give my kidney to whoever could get me 15 minutes alone with Bernanke and one of the FED's printing presses.

    /eliminationist rhetoric

  • sydiot||

    Not sure why the sexist dig was necessary. You seriously equate sending flowers after a date with paying for sex?

  • nicole||

    I think the point is that we don't equate them...

  • ||

    It IS paying for sex, just in a socially acceptable way, the way buying a $100 dinner for your date is waaaay less insulting to most women than giving her a $100 bill and saying, "now can I fuck you?"

  • daveundis||

    As the death toll from the organ shortage mounts, public support for paying organ donors will continue to grow. Changes in public policy will then follow.

    In the mean time, there is an already-legal way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. UNOS, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

    Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Non-donors should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs. Everyone can offer to donate their organs when they die, no matter what their medical condition or history is.

    David J. Undis
    Executive Director
    LifeSharers

  • neohiobiker||

    DO NOT DONATE people see the word donate and unreasonable thinks everyone dontes it's a free be But everyone gets paid except the person with the product

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