Virginia Postrel on How to End The Kidney-Transplant Waiting List


Over at The Atlantic, former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel has a meticulously researched and argued article about how to end waiting lists for donated kidneys. A snippet:

Altruistic blood donors often receive freebies like movie tickets or paid vacation hours that would be illegal for kidney donors. Plasma and sperm donors routinely receive cash, as do egg donors and surrogate mothers, who get tens of thousands of dollars.. If transplant centers could pay $25,000 or $50,000 to each living kidney donor, many more people would line up to contribute.

Such payments could even save taxpayers billions of dollars. Long-term dialysis is a federal entitlement. Under a special law, Medicare covers everyone, regardless of age, who has made minimal Social Security tax payments-about 319,000 of the country's 400,000 dialysis patients. Compared with dialysis payments, every transplant from a living, unrelated donor saves an expected present value of almost $100,000 in medical costs, according to a 2003 American Journal of Transplantation article by Matas and Mark Schnitzler, an economist then at Washington University in St. Louis and now at the Saint Louis University Center for Outcomes Research.

Eliminating the waiting list would thus save taxpayers $8 billion, or $4 billion if each living donor received a lump-sum payment of $50,000.

The story discusses promising new methods of expanding the donor base and matching donors with patients. It's a rich story that focuses on the human dimension of the exchange, which is made needlessly and often-fatally complicated by bad laws and policies. Read the whole thing here.

Postrel donated a kidney a few  years back, a story that makes up part of this Reason.tv documentary, "Organ Transplants: Kidneys for Sale." Watch below or go here for downloadable versions, embed code, and more.