Organ Rewards

Organ Rewards

Organ Rewards

Science, technology, and life.
March 29 2009 8:45 AM

Organ Rewards

If financial incentives for donating a kidney are wrong, what about financial rewards?

Frances Kissling offers that idea in a beautiful piece at Salon . She writes:

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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Appropriate concern for the international organ trafficking problem ... has so distorted the concept of altruism and eroded the principle of mutual respect that potential kidney donors are denied the basic safety net that a just and giving society should provide people who offer to risk their own lives to save the lives of others. ... [W]e financially abandon the donor almost immediately after we take their kidney. There is no provision for comprehensive long-term health insurance for donors, or for life and disability insurance. Opponents of any form of compensation or benefit to donors beyond costs directly attributable to the transplant itself fight efforts to provide these benefits.

What worries compensation opponents is that such benefits, framed as incentives to increase the organ supply, will economically coerce poor people to surrender body parts . But what if we don't frame the benefits as incentives? What if we present them, in Kissling's words, as what "a just and giving society should provide [to] people who offer to risk their own lives to save the lives of others"? And could we make this difference real, not just a matter of spin, by designing the reward system without regard to its effect on the organ supply?

Kissling argues that we should

treat potential donors with the same generous spirit with which they have offered their kidneys. No donor should spend a single dollar in the process of giving an organ. And donors should have the safety net they need to stay healthy, to support their family if they cannot work and life insurance should they die. ... One member of Congress who gets it is Arlen Specter, who is circulating the Organ Trafficking Prohibition Act of 2009. The bill increases the penalties for really buying and selling organs, but makes clear that state and federal government can provide the kind of benefits donors deserve without going to jail. Anyone disagree?

Well? Do you ?