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Volume 28 • Number 1

January 2014



Kidneys Save Lives: Markets Would Probably Help

by Luke Semrau

The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 prohibited the exchange of human organs for "valuable consideration" and so effectively banned kidney markets. This legislation was motivated by political, cultural, and religious resistance to the idea of commodifying the human body, worries about donors' safety, and a range of other ethical concerns. At the time, the prohibition had few drawbacks: the frequency of transplantation was low, and there was optimism about our ability to secure a sufficient number of healthy organs through donation. Much has changed in the last thirty years. As anti-rejection drugs have improved, the number of patients who would substantially benefit from a medically justifiable transplant has increased dramatically. It has also become evident that our exclusive reliance on donation is insufficient to meet the demand; as of November 2012, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), the waiting list for a kidney, in the United States alone, includes over 90,000 people. Consequently, the number of deaths that could be prevented by an increase in the supply of kidneys is far greater than it once was. Further, developments in surgical technique have made nephrectomies less invasive, and mounting evidence suggests that donors' long-term health outcomes are largely unaffected by their gift.

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ISSN: 2152-0542