Virginia Postrel is Mad

No one is more familiar with the ethics of organ donation than Virginia Postrel so when she says that the National Kidney Foundation is behaving reprehensibly you can be damn sure she is right.

The National Kidney Foundation
is behaving reprehensibly, especially given its mandate. When I first
got interested in organ donations, I naively thought that the
foundation would be in the business of doing everything possible to
encourage kidney donations. I was terribly wrong. The group vehemently,
and successfully, opposed a bill that would have allowed tests of incentives for organ donors. (CEO John Davis brags
here, scroll to second item.)

So determined is the NKF that kidney donors should never, ever, in any
way be compensated for their organs–no matter how many kidney patients
current policy kills–that the organization is now trying to stamp out public discussion of the idea. When they heard that AEI is planning a conference
on the subject for June 12, they wrote a letter to AEI president Chris
DeMuth suggesting that the conference shouldn’t be held. The letter
from NKF chief Davis (PDF available here) opens:

The officers and staff of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) were
surprised to learn that AEI has scheduled a forum entitled "Buy or Die:
Market Mechanisms to Reduce the National Organ Shortage" that will be
held on June 12, 2006. …we believe that the concept of financial
incentives has been adequately debated for 15 years, begining with the
National Kidney Foundation’s 1991 workshop on "Controversies in Organ
Donation," and culminating in the definitive Institute of Medicine
(IOM) report that was issued late in April 2006. We don’t see how an AEI forum would contribute substantively to debate on this issue. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, "We’d like to maintain our monopoly on the policy debate, so please shut up."

…For more background on the policy debate, see previous posts here, here, and here. Marginal Revolution blogger and GMU economist Alex Tabarok takes a detailed look at incentives here.


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