Thursday, 4 August 2011

Price seems high

Becker and Elias reckoned that kidneys would trade in the free market in the States for somewhere around $15k. So I'd expect that this proposal would draw rather a few prospective donors:
Sue Rabbitt Roff, a senior research fellow at the University of Dundee, said it was time to pilot "paid provision" of live kidneys in the UK, under "strict rules of access and equity".

She said that letting people sell the organ could help them make money to pay off university loans or simply give them the chance to do a kind deed.

She said that the rate of donation of kidneys from the dead and living had not kept pace with the need for the organs and has plateaued at about 2,000 a year in the UK.

In a Personal View article published on the British Medical Journal website, she suggested a move towards regulated paid provision for live donors' kidneys, with the organs allocated in the same "fair" way as they are now.

She wrote: "One reservation that many people express about such a proposal is that it might exploit poor people in the same way the illegal market does now.

"But if the standard payment were equivalent to the average annual income in the UK, currently about £28,000, it would be an incentive across most income levels for those who wanted to do a kind deed and make enough money to, for instance, pay off university loans."
And, of course, the haters are gonna hate:
The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics (SCHB) said it was very concerned about the proposal.

Dr Calum MacKellar, SCHB director of research, said: "To place a financial value on human beings or parts of human beings undermines the inherent dignity of the human person and the innate as well as unmeasurable worth of all individuals."

The SCHB said it believed that a market for human body parts would only be feasible as long as there were people poor enough to sell an organ and that it was therefore unethical to utilise financial pressures to obtain human body parts for transplantation.
We place a financial value on parts of human beings all the time: an hour is a fraction of a lifespan and we regularly pay people by the hour.

Because folks like Calum would get tetchy and queasy, people die while waiting for donations that won't be made.

HT: @s8mb



  1. I've just read a chapter by Gillian Hewitson on surrogate pregnancy arrangements. That literature (incl. Posner) could be an interesting place to start thinking about the kidney market. Hewitson's argument (which is not just economics) is that the surrogate is redefined not as a whole woman or a mother, but as an owner of a piece of capital called a uterus. The man and the 'real' mother rent the uterus, which then produces for them their own baby. This arrangement means that the adults are not buying and selling a child, which would be slavery.

  2. @Bill: It hadn't occurred to me to think of surrogacy other than as womb-rental. Some take it as selling a kid?

    I always forget how twisted non-economists are....