Redesigning the Organ Donation Market

RICOCHET | Majestyk

There is no market for organs, so my title itself is misleading. US Code, Title 42, Chapter 6A, Subchapter II, Part H, Section 274e states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce. The preceding sentence does not apply with respect to human organ paired donation.

Persons violating this law “shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

So, in order for market forces to be introduced into the organ donation market, the law would have to be changed. The bit above regarding paired human organ donation is discussed in this fascinating episode of Freakonomics radio about systems of exchange where money isn’t allowed to trade hands… for instance, in organ donation. So the question becomes: How can we go about doing that?

The first thing we need to tackle is why this law exists in the first place. Ever since organ transplantation became a viable technology there have been people who have been opposed to it for a variety of reasons, starting with religious/spiritual objections, all the way down to the “ick” factor. This in turn has led Congress to pass this law in order to allay people’s fears that the poor could be exploited or that predatory doctors with rich benefactors in need of an organ would prowl the various sick wards of a hospital in search of desperate people in need of a quick buck. Continue reading

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