[Submitted/published State Journal-Register]
Regarding SJ-R’s “Organ failure” article on the kidney donor shortage, I’d like to suggest a little math and some simple economics.
First the math. The “By the numbers” insert summarized the approximately 3,900 people on Illinois’ transplant waiting list. Less than one-fifth (700) of them receive a transplant in any year.
The article’s focus was on harvesting organs from trauma victims, which might make another 300 available. So optimistically, they could then meet one-fourth of the need. Hundreds will still “exit” the waiting list annually. By dying. National numbers are proportional.
There’s a quote in the article by a medical professional endorsing “… thoughtful consideration of any method that might enhance donor-organ supply.” It’s one of those things everyone says whenever organ shortages are discussed. It’s also complete baloney.
How can I say that? Ah — here comes the economics.
To be a donor, one is rigorously evaluated to ensure they’re in good physical and mental condition, disease-free, etc. How’s that economics? Well, there’s one other qualification: you absolutely have to do it for free.
As nearly as I can tell, the operation costs around $100,000. Afterwards, besides the recipient walking away with a new life, the surgeon walks away with several thousand dollars, the hospital collects several thousand dollars; likewise anesthesiologists, lab folks, etc. And I think they’re worth every penny.
The person who voluntarily gave up a major body organ, on the other hand, is barred from walking away with anything. Except a nice warm feeling. This could be due to altruism, but I’m thinking maybe it’s just the stitches healing.
So, please thoughtfully consider: Compensate donors. It’s a supply and demand thing. If on the other hand you think that’s horrendously unethical, fairness demands we insist that the surgeons and everyone else do their part for free, too.