Americans are appalled at the idea of an organ donor market, where individuals can be compensated for donating their organs while they are alive. We fear that the rich will prey on the poor, and that people may even be bred for organ income.  We thus depend on altruism to provide us with the organs needed.

There are 80,000 people on an organ donor waitlist but only 16,000 transplants are performed.  50,000 people die every year that do not get the organs they need, and another 13,000 are removed from the list because they get too sick.

Yet there is a country that allows a form of a free market where citizens can be compensated for selling their organs. In that country the demand for transplantable kidneys is met. They seem to understand what altruism is and what it is not.

Which country is more humane? The one that allows 50,000 to die to enforce an altruistic principle or the one that seems to understand human nature, flaws and all, and thus gives individuals the right to market their own body parts, and thus saves thousands of lives?

I do not pretend to have the answer to this one, but it shows the difficulty of morality in public policy.

The country which allows the freely traded organ market is…….


From ‘Superfreakonomics- Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance’ by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner