Cash for human kidneys: A bad idea is back

The HillThe Hill | February 27, 2015

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By David Jonathan Cohen, MD

In 1983, along with many other kidney doctors, I received an unsettling letter from a new organization established to set up a market in human kidneys.The International Kidney Exchange, Ltd, as the venture was known, offered a simple business model:  buying kidneys from live donors and selling them to people in need of transplants. 

The negative response was immediate and overwhelming. Within a year, the National Organ Transplantation Act, sponsored by Rep. Al Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), was enacted, outlawing organ donation in exchange for what was termed “valuable consideration.”

Unfortunately, this idea hasn’t gone away, fueled by the shortage of kidneys and waiting lists that continue to grow. Last year alone, more than 35,000 people joined the US kidney transplant waiting list, and every day, 12 people died while waiting for kidneys. 

Such statistics are behind a renewed campaign to legalize human organ sales in the United States, with support coming not from a rogue organization  but from respected transplant professionals, economists and ethicists who argue that it’s an idea whose time has come. 

I beg to differ. Permitting organ donation in exchange for valuable consideration—whether money, health insurance, or some other cash equivalent—was a bad idea in 1983, and it’s a bad idea now...

Read the complete article at The Hill here.

Read more about the market debate on the Declaration of Istanbul website here.

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