Two policies would address the shortfall of kidneys in the U.S.: instituting a priority-scoring system for donors and their kin and paying donors.
Israel pioneered the former in 2012. Prioritizing organ allocation by donor status—a system that economist Alex Tabarrok termed “no give, no take”—incentivized people to register as organ donors. It also removed a hurdle to living donation: The incentive to abstain because of a hypothetical (What if my son needs a kidney?) went away since the policy guarantees that a donor’s kin will be prioritized in the event that they need a transplant. The results? Both living and deceased donations have gone up, and the number of people who have died on the waitlist fell by 30% between 2010 and 2013.
To obviate the kidney shortage, we should heed the recommendation of Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker and others by making it legal to compensate donors.
Linde donated a kidney with the aid of the excellent National Kidney Registry. The registry matched him to a recipient whose own willing but incompatible donor donated to another patient in need. Bravo Dmitri.
Here are previous MR posts on organ donation.