Brother, can you spare a kidney?

[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.

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