The Economist Wants You To Sell Your Kidneys

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The Economist has a great ediorial advocating a market in organs:

Kidneys are the subject of a quietly growing global drama. As people in the rich world live longer and grow fatter, queues for kidneys are lengthening fast: at a rate of 7% a year in America, for example, where last year 4,039 people died waiting. …if just 0.06% of healthy Americans aged between 19 and 65 parted with one kidney, the country would have no waiting list.

Read the whole thing here.

Read lots about Virginia Postrel's kidneys here.

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  1. There’s a danger that poor women will be fooled by money.

  2. There’s a danger that poor women will be fooled by money.
    Poor women? What’s the going price? I might be persuaded to give one of mine up. BTW, I do recognize sarcasm most of the time.

  3. I’d like to have three kidneys. How can I arrange for that?

  4. The Economist makes an excellent point: the doctors make money off the transplant, the hospital makes money, the pharmaceutical companies make money, the ambulance service, and the patient is obviously better off. Yet everyone asserts that the donor and his family should be completely altruistic and try to shame him into the donation. When everyone else is donating their products and services for free, they can look down their noses at the organ marketers.

  5. I’d like to have three kidneys. How can I arrange for that?

    Ask Larry Hagman. He’s got five of them now, and three hearts!

  6. I even get a tee-shirt for donating blood. My parents used to get coupons for free pizza.

    Stop exploiting us!!!!!

  7. I haven’t read the Economist article yet, but I think James has basically summarized my points.

    There is only one valid argument against selling organs: That those who were selling might not disclose having a disease that could be transmitted just so that they could make the deal. However, considering the considerable effort that goes into the preparation for a transplant, it’s fairly certain that the disease would be detected before the sale could be made.

  8. Blood should come next. Of all the costs associated with using a pint of donated blood: hospital time, handling the blood, costs for testing, costs for the IV, whatever -(I don’t know exactly, but I’m sure they itemize this on the hospital bill you get) – why can’t they charge $5 extra for the donor themselves? Cripes, Insurance or Medicarentitlement will most likely pay for it anyways.

  9. no amount of money could make me part with either of my kidneys because I feel its important to have that spare and not depend on others. I’d also like a backup liver and gall bladder.

  10. There is absolutely nothing bad that can ever come of this. Be sure not to read any Larry Niven, especially his novel “A Gift From Earth.”

  11. Aresen,

    Actually, it is nearly impossible to screen for all transmittable diseases, someone could have been exposed to HIV, but the antigens might not be showing up in the blood yet…
    Screening methods that rule out individuals who are high risk have to be used to reduce the chances. Not foolproof. A risk you would be willing to take, however.

  12. I wonder how much a kidney would be worth on the open market? I do have two of them and could get by with one. I am not that poor or desparate and do not want to have surgery, but for a few hundred K, I might be willing to part with one. Would it pay that much or would desparate brown people drive the cost down?

  13. The Economist also had an article on the subject, in addition to an editorial. They note that Iran has an open kidney market, with a typical going rate of $3k-$4k plus the seller’s medical expenses. Scale it up to account for cost of living and higher income in the US and we’re probably looking at $30k or so, plus expenses.

    There are all sorts of things that can go wrong in an organ market, of course. Those things are usually easier to address when the practices are out in the open, not so easy to address when the practices are hidden in a black market.

    Interesting aside: According to the article, there are some people in Iran who give kidneys to strangers but refuse payment. They are mostly very devout Muslims.

  14. no amount of money could make me part with either of my kidneys because I feel its important to have that spare and not depend on others.

    Yeah, but sometimes you have to take that risk to make some serious money. Sell one now, invest that money, and use the income to buy a new one in 30 years when you need it.

  15. highnumber

    That’s why I said “fairly certain”. There are also a percentage of “false negatives” in any testing system.

    However, the tests are sufficiently accurate to provide the recipient with reasonable assurance and to dissuade a dishonest donor.

    The blood regime is a little different in that the volume of blood used almost reduces the transaction to a commodity level. It becomes less cost-effective to screen the blood than to screen the donors by appealing to the donors’ “altruism”.

    I put “altruism” in quotes here as I think there is a mix of genuine caring for others and a self-interested mutual-benefit calculation that goes into the voluntary blood donor programs. [FWIW: I have donated blood 116 times.]

  16. There is only one valid argument against selling organs: That those who were selling might not disclose having a disease that could be transmitted just so that they could make the deal.

    It is not a valid argument, it begs the question. You assume people would just buy an organ without having it tested first. If quality is the factor, the customer will get out of his/her way to make sure the organ is clean. There is also a good opportunity for brokerage companies that can certify the organs being traded are clean. You do not need a bureaucratic-overseer for this.

    As a matter of fact, having a monopoly on organ trading actually makes it much EASIER for diseased organs to be used because doctors and patients will be complacent about the monopoly’s intentions.

    The altruistic system also leads to artificial shortages.

  17. I was trying to place the thing I heard about organ donations and HIV screening. Did I read it in the Economist last night, or did I hear it on the Cato Daily Podcast the other day? I was scrolling down the page, lo and behold, it was from Kerry Howley’s post yesterday.

  18. I’d also like a backup liver and gall bladder.

    How much are you willinig to pay?

  19. I’d also like a backup liver and gall bladder.

    How much are you willinig to pay?

    Ah Tom,

    I am not sure you would get much enjoyment out of the money you made by selling your liver. Not trying to discourage you or anything, but I am just saying..

  20. TPG did not say it would be his liver.

  21. I thought that doctors can actually take part of a liver, transplant it, and over time both the original and transplanted liver portions grow back to full size.

    Did I hear wrong?

  22. From
    http://www.mssm.edu/rmti/liverdonor.shtml

    In living donor liver transplantation, a piece of liver is surgically removed from a living person and transplanted into a recipient, immediately after the recipient’s diseased liver has been entirely removed.

    Living donor liver transplantation is possible because the liver – unlike any other organ in the body – has the ability to regenerate, or grow. Regeneration of the liver happens over a very short period – possibly days to weeks, and certainly within 6-8 weeks. So when surgeons remove a piece of the donor’s liver, the part that remains in the donor grows back quickly to its original size.

    Guess it works.

  23. If I can buy pieces of chinese criminals could I get a discount price for all the organs together?

    That way I could make a profit selling them one by one and have someone else clean this goddamned house for a while!

  24. Ironchef —

    Actually, paying for blood isn’t a new idea. When I was in the Navy, I used to get $20/pint at the Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. (Of course, I happen to have one of the rarer blood types (A-); as I recall, the rate for good old O+ was a lot less.)

    The problem was, you had to be sober to donate — and most of us weren’t in that frame of mind when we needed the money.

  25. Ooooo, A- is valuable, eh?
    Excellent…

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