Market Freedom Could Save Lives

Every year, people in the U.S. are diagnosed with several organ diseases and dysfunctions, some fatal. These conditions are reliant on one thing; replacements. Replacements are the only long-term solution to alleviating such detrimental action to the body by parts that are quickly failing, but not everyone is so fortunate to receive “subsidized” organs. In most cases, we see that due to the high amount of new diagnoses of organ related illnesses, that there are simply not enough organs that are being donated.

Statistics show that 77 people register for an organ donation daily. To an uninformed reader, this statistic may seem low and manageable. However, there are currently over 92,000 people on organ donor waiting lists with an additional 37,000 added every month. This large number leads to a ridiculous waiting period for these precious life savers, and we continue to lose an average of 18 patients a day on these waiting lists. Excluding death, most patients are in time sensitive circumstances that are directly affecting the health of their body. Even when the “lucky” ones are fortunate to get a transplant, the surgery is usually so late that the patient will either not be saved by the transplant, or the patient will live with long term health effects because of the damage that has already been done to his body. 

What we’re missing is an incentive for people to donate. Due to the value in organs, we would see a much larger market if organs were sold rather than just donated anonymously.  Allowing donors to receive a monetary incentive would lead to a substantial increase in people receiving transplants due to the large plethora of healthy organs. This could potentially save tens of thousands of lives and would be arguably more economically beneficial for the overall spectrum of organ patients. While most would be compelled to sell their organs, some would still generously donate their organs for someone who couldn’t afford their organs, allowing those who can’t afford to pay to receive organs from a substantially less crowded waiting list. Other economic factors would be basic supply and demand economics that would show the decrease in prices of various organs.

There is also the safety component of a legal and medically approved free market system. As with most other illegal products, there is a black market for organs within the U.S. and around the world. Most of these black-market deals involve fraudulent people who are taking advantage of their client’s dire situation by selling them either nothing at all, or an organ that doesn’t meet the criteria to adequately help their client’s needs. If made legal, you would see a medically vetted system that would only allow healthy organs to be sold. This was the case in Iran, which is the only country in the world that legally allows people to sell their liver. Within a few years after the law’s implementation, waiting lists in Iran were almost completely eliminated, and there was a substantial decrease in the black market for organs.

Discussions will remain about the safety and moral implications of selling organs for profit. However, everyone is likely to agree that the current system is broken and significant reforem needs to be enacted. 


This article was written by Brad Robinson, one of Reid Law's 2018 summer interns and an incoming freshman at the University of Alabama.