Pennsylvania must do more to encourage organ donation, but compensation raises ethical questions


Tony Forte post multi-organ transplant 

The number of kidney, liver, heart and lung donors in Pennsylvania doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of those awaiting transplants, The Caucus, an LNP Media Group watchdog publication focused on state government, reported in last week’s Sunday LNP. And the General Assembly has not acted on potential solutions to the organ shortage. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 253 Pennsylvanians died on a transplant waiting list last year, while 1,554 received organs.

The anxiety of waiting for an organ transplant is beyond our imagination.

The anxiety that comes with waiting for a loved one to receive an organ transplant must be terrible, too.

So we understand those who want lawmakers to do more to ease the organ transplant shortage.

But some of the solutions posed raise some tough ethical questions.

Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale School of Medicine, has had two kidney transplants. She told The Caucus that states including Pennsylvania “need to give more healthy young and middle-age people a reason to become living donors.”

Proponents of offering incentives to donors suggest options such as tax deductions, health care, child care, or maybe, student loan forgiveness.

As The Caucus noted, opponents see such compensation as “tantamount to organ selling, which is prohibited by a 1984 federal law.” And they worry that underprivileged people could be exploited in a system that offers such compensation.

But according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have laws that provide for tax deductions or exemptions for organ transplantation.Democratic state Rep. John Galloway, of Bucks County, has introduced legislation that would provide a $10,000 state personal income tax deduction for any commonwealth resident donating an organ. The bill is stuck in the House Finance Committee. Continue reading

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