The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) was first signed into law in 1984 under President Reagan and underwent a few amendment in the following years. What this law makes clear is that it is illegal to sale human organs for transplant. To this day it is still the law of the land. There is, on average, about 120,000 people waiting for organ transplant in the US with the majority waiting for a kidney. Last year was a record year with over 10,000 donors and almost 35,000 organ transplantations in the US alone. Roughly 20% (6,182 exactly in 2017) of those transplants were from living donors.
It is not difficult to realize that not everybody will get a second chance at a better quality of life. There is way more demand than offer. The number of living donors has been pretty steady for the past 5 years according to UNOS data. It is the number for deceased donor transplants that is expanding every year. The increase in donors was credited to the opioids crisis who is unfortunately killing a lot of people. Without any sort of financial rewards it would be difficult to imagine the number of living donors increasing from now on. Any financial rewards is illegal at the moment in the US but we are kidding ourselves if we think brown envelops have never changed hands in the history of organ transplant.
You need some very unselfish people to give a kidney to a relative and sometimes a stranger. Unselfishness in this case is not enough to increase the number of living donors as we have seen over the past 5 years. Money or some other form of financial incentives would most likely help. At the moment everybody involved in transplant profits in one way or another with organ transplantation. Transplant hospitals makes money off the actual transplant surgery and follow up care, physicians make a living out of those patients, drug companies make tons of money selling their medications and also let’s not forget about pharmacies who also profits from all that. Organ procurement organizations (OPO) also are able to stay in business by managing donors and maximizing donation. Basically the only person not profiting from any of that is the actual donor or its family. Should money (cash) be the only incentive??? Should only living donors get those benefits?? I don’t think so and will be covered in part 2 where we will cover the pros and cons of such system and different types of financial incentives.