$10,000 for a Kidney? Study Says Paying for Organs Could Save Lives and Money

A new study finds that organs from paid donors are less costly than dialysis and could improve patient outcomes. But it does not address ethical concerns or the potential for abuse of the system

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Paying organ donors $10,000 per kidney would lower recipients’ medical bills and save lives, since the price is often lower than the cost of years of dialysis and paying donors would increase the number of available organs.

Canadian researchers in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology say they have discovered that if paying $10,000 per kidney results in a 5% increase in donations (a very conservative estimate,) the health care system would save $340 per patient, NBC News reports. But if the money actually results in a 10% or 20% increase, the savings per patient could reach thousands of dollars. This is because most patients wait 2-3 years for a kidney, and the cost of dialysis during the wait is usually higher than $10,000.

In the U.S., more than 98,000 are waiting for a kidney donation, and last year more than 4,500 people died waiting for an organ. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer people are donating healthy kidneys. The researchers think that adding compensation would encourage more people to donate.

But not everybody is comfortable with the idea of putting a price tag on organ donation. The same researchers conducted a survey of 3,000 Canadians that found that 70% of people were okay with compensation for organ donation, but only 25% of doctors agreed. The same survey found that half the people who said they were reluctant to donate an organ changed their mind when money was on the table.

The debate over compensation for organ donation is fraught with moral questions and scary hypotheticals. What if organ donations turn into bidding wars? What if the poor harvest their organs to keep rich people alive?

Recent reports of an African girl who was smuggled into Britain to have her organs harvested is just the latest case of the black market for organs exploiting vulnerable populations.