Would You Donate A Kidney For $50,000?

Mar 29, 2016

A new study out this week shows Americans are more likely to donate a kidney if they’re paid.

The number of people waiting for a kidney is going up to more than 100,000, while the number of transplants remain flat at less than 20,000 per year. That’s caused a kidney shortage in the U.S., and means for every successful 100 transplants, there will be 38 people who die or become too sick to get a transplant.

With that in mind, researchers asked people how they feel about donating a kidney, and how they feel about being paid $50,000 to donate to a stranger. They found most people favorably view kidney transplants, and that most would be more likely to donate a kidney if they were paid.

Dr. Thomas Peters, a professor of surgery at the University of Florida, said Congress should amend a law that would allow a pilot program to test paying patients for transplanting kidneys.

“This is, as you alluded to earlier, this is a political issue, as to regulation and law,” Peters said. “This is sort of a message to our leaders in America.”

Researchers surveyed likely voters. The study’s authors likened the idea of paying people transplanting a kidney to public views of doctor-assisted euthanasia, marijuana use and same sex marriage: In all three of those cases, public opinion flipped before the laws caught up.

“I think it’s a win-win in terms of the ethics,” Peters said. “You’re correct, there are those who oppose paying kidney donor on moral grounds. I think the moral imperative here is there are people who are dying.”

Interestingly, paying patients for a kidney transplant could actually save the U.S. health care system money in the long-run because of how expensive dialysis is. Check here to read the study in full.

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Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.