Plugged In: Paying people to donate kidneys

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NEW YORK CITY, New York — Should Americans be paid to donate kidneys to those in need?

A recent column in the New York Times suggests doing so.

Tina Rosenberg writes that we can learn a lot by looking to Iran. That country is the only one in the world that pays kidney donors.

“While no country seems willing to follow Iran into providing monetary incentives for kidney donors, many are starting to remove the financial disincentives that make donating a kidney an activity only for those with disposable income,” Rosenberg writes.

Right now donors have to pay for travel and absorb the cost of recovering from surgery including missed work and child care.

According to Josh Morrison, a kidney donor who founded “WaitList Zero,” 2014 had the lowest number of living donors since 2000. He said since during that same time the number of people waiting for a kidney has doubled.

Rosenberg writes that many in the medical field are changing their minds about paying donors.

And some form of compensation is just the right thing to do. “As a surgeon, I get paid,” said Kenneth Newell, a transplant surgeon at Emory University and a past president of the American Society of Transplantation. “The hospital gets paid. The nephrologist gets paid. The patient gets a new kidney and perhaps gets to re-engage in his life’s work. The insurer gets money” (because a transplant costs about the same as a single year of dialysis). “Everyone gets paid, except the donor,” he said. In other words, the donor, and only the donor, must act solely out of altruism.

Read more of Rosenberg’s column here, and then head over to our Facebook page to let us know what you think. Stacey Frey might read your comments during Plugged In from 6:30 – 9 a.m.