Government Should Not Induce Kidney Supplying

by Wesley J. Smith

Psychiatrist and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow, Sally Satel, received a donated kidney from the writer Virginia Postrel, saving her life. Good for Postrel. Happy for Satel.

But Satel wants kidney providing to become a compensated endeavor–to the potential significant detriment of the poor or financially struggling.

Periodically, the New York Times gives her space to pitch organ markets. Her latest approach is to have the government or a charity provide the compensation. From, “Why People Don’t Donate Their Kidneys:”

Donors would not get a lump sum of cash; instead, a governmental entity, or a designated charity, would offer them in-kind rewards, like a contribution to the donor’s retirement fund, an income tax credit or a tuition voucher. Meanwhile, imposing a waiting period of at least six months would ensure that donors didn’t act impulsively and that they were giving fully informed consent.

Prospective compensated donors would be carefully screened for physical and emotional health, as is done for all donors now. These arrangements would screen out financially desperate individuals who might otherwise rush to donate for a large sum of instant cash and later regret it.

The donors’ kidneys would be distributed to people on the waiting list, according to the rules now in place. (People who wanted to donate a kidney to a specific person — say, a father to a son — would still be able to, outside this system.) Finally, all rewarded donors would be guaranteed follow-up medical care for any complications, which is not ensured now.

Sorry. No sale.

Here’s the thing. Kidney supplying is serious surgery. It can be dangerous. Rarely–but it happens–people die from the procedure. Later, their remaining kidney could become injured or dysfunctional, and they might then wish very much that they still had their second.

That’s why I don’t believe in kidney buying–however it is done.  People should not be induced to take such a potentially life-altering risk Indeed, I think it would especially egregious if the government induced a person struggling financially to sacrifice their health or life–even if it was for the good cause of saving another person’s life.

Keep it altruistic. Once the door was opened to kidney financial inducements, the financial schemes would only multiply. Those waiting for help are not the only lives involved.