Organ Donation: Incentives Could Save Lives

Click for audio Organ Donation: Incentives Could Save Lives

Human life is priceless, but economic incentives could help save the lives of thousands of Michigan citizens who are in desperate need of organ transplants.

Over 2,000 Michiganians will die prematurely unless they receive new kidneys, hearts, lungs, or other organs. But in 1998, there were only 825 organ donors in the state—less than half the number needed to meet the demand.

How can economics encourage more people to sign up for organ donation? Laws forbid the sale of human organs, and most people find the idea of a market for organs objectionable.

But another idea is to allow nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross to offer nominal payments—perhaps $25.00—to encourage more people to sign organ donor cards when renewing their driver's licenses. Currently, people who sign these cards receive nothing.

People who wished to sign out of a sense of charity could refuse the payment. Those who might not otherwise agree to donate would suddenly have a modest economic incentive to do so, making them more likely to sign the card and save a life.

Michigan could save thousands of precious lives by putting the power of incentives to work for those in need of organ transplants.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Joseph Lehman.