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Friday, April 06, 2012

"Golden Rule" Organ Donation Incentives

Joseph Roth, head of New Jersey's organ sharing network recently recounted these two stories:

Caseworkers from our organization recently went to the hospital to visit the family of a woman who suffered a stroke. The woman was dead, but machines continued to keep her organs functioning. She was an ideal candidate to be an organ donor. Her husband, it turns out, was on the waiting list to receive a heart.

Our caseworkers asked the husband if he would allow his wife’s organs to be donated. The husband, to the shock of our caseworkers, said no. He simply refused. Here was a man willing to accept an organ to save his own life, but who refused to allow a family member to give the gift of life to another person.

We have experienced other such cases, including the family of a woman who received a kidney. The donation enhanced and added years to her life. Yet, when she was declared brain dead, the family refused to allow her organs to be used to save others.

Roth goes on to describe an effort to create insurance incentives to register to donate:

Our proposal — we call it the Golden Rule proposal — would permit health insurers in New Jersey to limit transplant coverage for people who decline to register as organ donors. It would be the first such law in the nation. No one would be denied an organ. But under the proposal, insurers could limit reimbursement for the hospital and medical costs associated with transplants of the kidney, pancreas, liver, heart, intestines and lungs.

I don't know the details of this particular proposal, and they are no doubt important. To me, however, these kinds of incentives are a no-brainer.

Posted by Adam Kolber on April 6, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Permalink


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About 50% of the organs transplanted in America go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. As long as we let non-donors jump to the front of the waiting list if they need a transplant we'll always have an organ shortage.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to other registered organ donors can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 15,000 members, including members in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico.

Giving organs first to registered organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

David J. Undis
Executive Director

Posted by: Dave Undis | Apr 7, 2012 9:34:38 AM

I disagree, Jimbino. The lack of a free market in organs has nothing to do with the people who actually need organs, and I doubt that's why they (or their family) refuse. And I think that's just plain selfish. I can understand someone not being comfortable with giving their organs away, but to accept organ transplants while refusing to give yours to people in need? That has nothing to do with promoting libertarianism, and everything to do with vindictiveness and selfishness.

Posted by: darius404 | Apr 6, 2012 8:05:39 PM

I agree with those folks. It's real dumb to give away your property--even more your body parts. As long as the gummint hobbles a free market in organs, we libertarians need to game the system in order to bring it down.

For the sake of myself, and particularly of my loved ones and heirs, I accept all donations while refusing to fritter away their inheritance. This makes as much economic sense as not bothering to vote. An economist understands all this, while hoi polloi does not.

Posted by: Jimbino | Apr 6, 2012 7:38:32 PM

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