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Living organ donors could see compensation in the future

Kara Menini

The restored scene from Dr Barnard's first human heart transplantation - world's most famous heart of young donor Denise Duval

NPR polls Americans on how they feel about compensation

A good portion of Americans would support a change in law to compensate living organ donors, NPR reports.

There is a shortage of organs for donations that groups around the country have been trying to combat. Years of work has gone into recruiting more donors but the numbers simply aren’t growing. Although the federal law bans payment for organs, many people are starting to wonder if compensation for three kinds of donations from the living is an easy compromise. The three kinds of donations are kidneys, bone marrow and a portion of liver big enough to help a failing liver recover. NPR took a poll with over 3,000 adults around the U.S. and it seems that most Americans approve of the compensation. 60% supported compensation in the form of credits for health care needs, 46% supported compensation in the form of tax credits and tuition reimbursement and 41% saw cash as an acceptable form of compensation.

Although some believe that giving compensation for organ donation would undercut a system that runs on altruism, what does that matter if it saves more lives?

Dr. Stuart Youngner, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University’s med school said, “I think the market has become such an important guiding principle in so many areas of lives, including health care, that it becomes harder to say why shouldn’t a person who donates organs make some money too. Altruism is very, very important, but in this case the lives of people are very, very important.”

A book by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein called, “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness” also discusses the issue of the dwindling number of organ donors. Their position is a little sneakier as they suggest that simply making the default option for driver’s licenses as “Yes I am an organ donor” will significantly increase the number of organ donors because most people are simply too lazy to change it.

NPR reported, “It seems worth noting that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March affirmed an earlier decision that compensating people for marrow cells drawn from their blood wouldn’t run afoul of the federal law banning payment for organ donations.”

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