Living and deceased organ donation should be financially neutral acts

Am J Transplant. 2015 May;15(5):1187-91. doi: 10.1111/ajt.13232. Epub 2015 Mar 31.


The supply of organs—particularly kidneys—donated by living and deceased donors falls short of the number of patients added annually to transplant waiting lists in the United States. To remedy this problem, a number of prominent physicians, ethicists, economists and others have mounted a campaign to suspend the prohibitions in the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 (NOTA) on the buying and selling of organs. The argument that providing financial benefits would incentivize enough people to part with a kidney (or a portion of a liver) to clear the waiting lists is flawed. This commentary marshals arguments against the claim that the shortage of donor organs would best be overcome by providing financial incentives for donation. We can increase the number of organs available for transplantation by removing all financial disincentives that deter unpaid living or deceased kidney donation. These disincentives include a range of burdens, such as the costs of travel and lodging for medical evaluation and surgery, lost wages, and the expense of dependent care during the period of organ removal and recuperation. Organ donation should remain an act that is financially neutral for donors, neither imposing financial burdens nor enriching them monetarily.

Keywords: donors and donation: incentives; ethics; ethics and public policy; law / legislation.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / economics
  • Living Donors*
  • Motivation
  • Nephrectomy / economics
  • Research Design
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / economics
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / economics*
  • United States
  • Waiting Lists