Anybody wanna buy a kidney?

To me it seems simple: once you die, you don’t need your organs, but a sick person somewhere does. So why are so few people organ donors? There must be some reason since so few people are willing to donate their organs even posthumously, and I wonder what those reasons are.

I recently read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal discussing potential solutions for the dire shortage of donated organs. Did you know that Iran is the only country without a wait list for donor organs? Why, you might ask, is this so? It turns out that Iranian donors are paid about $3,500 for a kidney donation. Seriously, that is all, and the previous shortage was wiped out.

Other countries are on the verge of implementing similar programs. Singapore is gearing up to offer US$36,000 to organ donors. Some economists determined that people in the US would be willing to donate a kidney (you can easily live with just one) for $15,000.

I’m an organ donor and am happy for someone else to use my kidneys in the event of my death, but it would take more than $15,000 to tempt me to undergo major surgery and organ removal. I’m not sure what my price would be. I’d donate a kidney to a loved one who needed one, but I’m not convinced cash would be a great motivator for live donation to strangers. The whole concept reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s incredible book Never Let Me Go, for reasons I will not get into further for fear of spoiling the plot for you if you’ve not read it (and if you haven’t read it, you really should). In any case, offering payment for live donation of organs seems like it would wind up preying on desperate people and really poor people. I guess if it’s voluntary you can’t really fault them, much like women who decide to be surrogate mothers or egg donors (although I will say that my campus newspaper used to advertise for egg donors and offers of $50,000 for Ivy League eggs were common, so $15,000 seems like a paltry sum for a kidney). Frankly I’d be far more likely to donate a kidney than an egg even though the egg donation would be less invasive.

The solution I found most promising was the idea of waiving funeral expenses and drivers license fees for people who agreed to be organ donors in the event of their death and whose next of kin agreed not to protest it (apparently some next of kin protest when organ donors die – again, I can’t really fathom why you would do that). Another good idea was presuming EVEVERYONE was an organ donor, unless the person specifically signed something saying they did NOT want to be one. That way people who didn’t want to donate could opt out, but people who would otherwise just be too lazy to opt in are put in the program.

At any rate, I found this topic most interesting. I apologize if I gave anyone the creeps by all this talk of kidney donation and whatnot. If you know of any reasons against organ donations, I’d be curious to know what they are.

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