More on Commerce in Kidneys

by Don Boudreaux on June 28, 2006

in Health, Prices, Regulation

Here’s the third part of my series, in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, endorsing a free-market in human kidneys.

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Vanessa June 28, 2006 at 5:35 pm

The argument against this kind of market is becoming more and more pervasive. Arizona recently passed legislation that made the sell of human eggs illegal. Donors may continue to make donations, but only on a volunteer basis. Their could be considered medically risky and women facing financial hardships are incapable of making rational decisions such as choosing to donate eggs. Sperm sales, however, are still legal.

Noah Yetter June 28, 2006 at 6:32 pm

Considering the high price paid to egg donors (due, as I understand it, to the pain and inconvenience of the procedure), one would predict the availability of eggs in Arizona to rapidly approach zero.

ben June 29, 2006 at 1:48 am

Is it not a tragedy that such bad arguments have killed so many?

Slocum June 29, 2006 at 7:39 am

"But physicians, nurses and pharmaceutical companies, along with many other folks and firms, routinely profit from other people's illnesses."

Not only that, they profit handsomely from kidney transplantation in particular. Why should the surgeon profit and the drug company that will sell the patient anti-rejection drugs for life, but not the donor?

bbartlog June 29, 2006 at 1:08 pm

Indeed. And in fact this is why I personally don't donate blood. I would do so if the hospital didn't charge for the transfused blood (but they do), and it is offensive to me that the other agents in the blood supply chain should profit from my generosity when I am expected to be content with nothing.

Medical tourism to India and other countries will eventually turn this into a class issue in much the same way that abortion was back when legality varied from state to state. Those who are poor or unable to travel abroad for whatever reason will suffer from the shortages caused by controls, while those with means will go where the goods are available.

Half Sigma July 3, 2006 at 12:53 pm

I'm in favor of a free market for bodyparts.

This would solve the whole minimum wage issue, because poor people could make more money selling body parts than working, and employers would be forced to raise salaries.

But then American poor people would face competition for third world poor people selling body parts. There are probably people in third world countries who would voluntarily sacrifice their life for a few hundred dollars to give to their family.

The solution is high tariffs on imported body parts to protect American donors.

Yevgeny July 4, 2006 at 7:47 am

A simple solution to the lack of organ donotaions is to incentivize people to become donors. This could be achieved by placing anyone who is a donor ahead of any non-donor on the transplant waiting list. In order to prevent someone for signing up to be a donor after they find out they need a transplant the amount of time on the donor list would determine the priority order.

Half Sigma July 4, 2006 at 11:34 pm

"A simple solution to the lack of organ donotaions is to incentivize people to become donors."

Yes, and the best incentive of all is money.

Radu July 7, 2006 at 4:58 am

1. What about forced transplants? Not everybody lives in the US and there are many nasty places in the world where organs can be removed without the donor's consent. Considering the amount of money involved such a practice could be as hard to fight as drugs.

2. What happens when people decide to donate their second kidney as well? My guess is that there are quite a few healthy desperate people who are prepared to donate them. And what about the transplant of hearts and livers?

Larry Blalock July 8, 2006 at 8:04 pm

For an article that addresses both the economic and the moral arguments in support of a free market in kidneys, read the article by Bill Barnett, Michael Saliba, and Deborah Walker entitled “A Free Market in Kidneys: Efficient and Equitable,” Independent Review, Volume 5, Number 3, 2001, 373-385.

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