written by
Harvey Mysel

Is it Time to Consider Compensating Someone Who Donates a Kidney?

Stories 1 min read , December 4, 2020

In sports and in business, when the chosen strategy isn't working, you make a change.

The current system for supplying kidneys to those in need was developed in 1983. It is not keeping up with the demand. You'd think we would change the system, especially when there is another option that has proved to be successful.

As strange as this may seem, we need to look to Iran who has overcome the kidney shortage with a fair solution. Iran has completely eliminated its kidney transplant waiting list, we should consider adopting the model they've developed.

In “Organ Sales and Moral Travails,” Benjamin E. Hippen, MD, transplant nephrologist, shows that Iran’s system of compensated donation has effectively provided the organs needed for transplant. “Iran is the only country that legally permits kidney vending,” he writes. “The waiting list for kidneys was eliminated in 1999, 11 years after the legalization of organ vending, and for the past 8 years, Iran has had no waiting list for kidneys.”

Concerns about the negative impacts of offering financial incentives for kidney donation naturally arise. Hippen reports that Iran has addressed this problem by putting a non-profit intermediary between potential kidney vendors and patients in need. “Separating the role of identifying vendors from the role of evaluating their medical, surgical, and psychological suitability permits transplant professionals to avoid confusing judgment on a vendor’s candidacy with various financial and professional incentives to perform more transplants,” Hippen writes.

Though the Iranian system is not perfect, it offers lessons that would be of value to American policy makers seeking to reduce the United States’ tragic organ shortage by setting up markets. “A review of 20 years of experience with a living organ vendor system in Iran reveals successes, deficiencies, and ambiguities,” Hippen concludes. “If the discussion of kidney markets in this country can progress beyond preconceptions as to what can and cannot work, in Iran or elsewhere, to an examination of the example of the Iran based on the evidence, that will be a significant step in the right direction.”

The above was taken from the blog, System Models.

For a full copy of the report by Dr. Hippen:

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