While the politicians in Washington are poised to undermine the healthcare system with additional layers of taxes, spending, and regulation, Steven Chapman proposes to use markets to improve a part of the system that is suffering from a punitive form of price controls. Orgain donors are allowed zero compensation for their sacrifice. This policy – driven by an ideological impulse against markets and voluntary exchange – directly leads to the death of thousands of people each year
Consider the economics of an organ transplant. Everyone involved gets something of value. The doctors and nurses are paid. The hospital receives money. The organ recipient gets something that will save her life. …since 1984, it has been illegal to pay someone to surrender a body part, even posthumously. Campaigns to browbeat Americans into signing organ donor cards, however, haven’t sufficed. The transplant organ shortage has grown. Since 1989, kidney donations have doubled. But the number of patients in need of them is five times higher than it was then. Last year, 4,456 people died while waiting for a kidney transplant. The story with livers follows the same line. Among the losers from this guaranteed-shortage policy are victims of cancer and other lethal diseases who need bone marrow transplants. Some of them have filed a lawsuit, which goes to court in Los Angeles this week, asking to be allowed to offer compensation to donors — which is now a felony punishable by five years in prison. …The ban is particularly indefensible in this realm. Someone giving up a kidney loses an important organ for good. But bone marrow donors produce new marrow to replace what is lost. Given that it’s legal under federal law to buy and sell blood and sperm, why is bone marrow treated differently? …If Americans could be paid for bone marrow, more would step forward. Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, in a 2007 paper written with Julio Jorge Elias of the State University of New York at Buffalo, figured the kidney shortage could be eliminated for $15,000 per organ.