Financial Compensation for Organ Donors?

The Sacramento Bee reports on California hospitals that have greatly increased organ donations from recently-deceased patients. The paper quotes a family care coordinator who links suitable donors in the Sacramento region with patients awaiting transplants. “The hospitals are absolutely instrumental in setting the circumstances so that the best possible outcomes for donation are there. The hospitals are successful because they really go out of their way to make sure the families of patients really have their needs met.”

That news is really great, but a Wall Street Journal article suggests that such efforts will not be enough. At the national level, there is a growing shortage of kidneys for transplant. And even if we could expand the number of cadaver donors, problems will remain. Kidneys from dead people tend not to work as well as those from living donors. So how can we get more living donors?

Federal law currently forbids the selling of organs. But transplant surgeon Arthur Matas argues for changing the law to permit a market in kidneys.

Firsthand experience convinces me that the idea is worth a trial. Last summer, I donated a kidney to an in-law. As a college professor, I faced no hardship during the recovery period. School was out of session, and I could easily continue my research and writing on my home computer. But most people don’t have that luxury. Organ donation may mean months of lost income or forgone business opportunities. Financial compensation could enable more people to give the gift of life.

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