Only one country in the world has eliminated the shortage of transplant kidneys. Only one country in the world has legalized financial payments to kidney donors. That country is Iran.
In an important report,
transplant surgeon nephrologist Benjamin Hippen argues that the Iranian system has saved thousands of lives and it should be used if not as model then to inform America’s efforts to eliminate its deadly shortage.
In the Iranian system organs are not bought and sold at the bazaar. Instead a non-profit, volunteer-run Dialysis and Transplant Patients Association (DATPA) mediates between recipients and donors. Recipients who cannot be assigned a kidney from a deceased donor and who cannot find a related living donor may apply to the DATPA. The DATPA identifies a possible donor from a pool of people who have applied to the DATPA to be donors. Donors are medically evaluated by transplant physicians, who have no connection to the DATPA, in just the same way as are non-financially compensated donors.
The government pays donors $1,200 plus limited health insurance coverage. In addition, charitable organizations also provide renumeration to impoverished donors. Thus demonstrating that Iran has something to teach the world about charity as well as about markets. Will wonders never cease? Recipients may also contribute to donor remuneration.
Hippen reports that the system works well, although better follow-up of donors would be an improvement. He concludes with a call to legalize financial compensation in the United States.