Should We Legalize the Buying and Selling of Kidneys?

Although originally written in 1983, David Henderson’s memo is the best analysis I have seen on the subject. This will give you the flavor of it:

The unemployed worker in Michigan who has received so much publicity has offered to sell his kidney for $25,000. If he received his asking price, he could earn 3% real interest or $750 a year for taking an annual risk of 1 in 5000 of losing the other kidney. This is higher than the $450 that workers are paid for risking a 1 in 5000 chance of losing their lives. And remember that this risk of losing one’s only good kidney is by no means that same as the risk of death. Losing a remaining kidney is less serious than dying. Of course, if kidneys fetched a much lower price than $25,000, then selling them wouldn’t be such a good deal for the seller. But then they probably wouldn’t be sold, in all likelihood having been priced out by cadaver supplies.

Comments (9)

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  1. Larry C. says:

    Nice paper by Dr. Henderson. Very rational. What more is there to say? Case closed.

  2. artk says:

    The flip side of selling a kidney is unfortunately a patient buying a kidney. Unless you want the government to be the party buying organs, it means that organ transplants are only available to the rich. The Israelis’ have what I think is a better answer to the shortage of donor organs. You want a transplant, fine, then you have to be willing to donate your organs.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    At the very least people should be allowed to sell their organs upon death. I suspect the non-profit organizations that profit from organ donations oppose any type of organ sales because some the profits that accrue to them would instead go to the original owners.

  4. Larry C. says:

    artk: That’s why people insure. To cover rare and unexpected and expensive events. Of course the federal government has more or less nationalized kidney dialysis and kidney transplants, but absent that private insurers should offer coverage for translants and that should include buying the organ.

  5. Tom H. says:

    Whose kidney is it? The government’s? Why should I have to ask permission from the government to sell any part of my body?

  6. Liz says:

    Do you think I could get $100,000 for my kidney on Ebay?

  7. Linda Gorman says:

    Most basic question should be whether, and how one can be sure, that it is a voluntary transaction?

    If one is selling organs at death, how does one make sure that the death isn’t accelerated to get the organ? Should Medicaid pay to save a quad head injury when the organs are worth so much more and the person would be dead without expensive life support and rehabilitation? Will futile care be redefined to be any lifesaving measure when the dying person has otherwise healthy organs?

  8. Oscar says:

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  9. Tom H. says:

    Linda makes a good point. I don’t know what the answer is.