Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Want a kidney? Wait six years.

In our textbook, one of our best money making ideas is selling kidneys:
If I can borrow $100 million at 20% interest, I can buy a hospital ship, anchor it in international waters, and begin selling kidneys. I can set up a database to match donors to recipients, broker sales, and fly in experienced transplant teams. If I charge $200,000 and earn 10% on each transaction, the break-even quantity is just 1,000 transplant each year. This represents about 1% of the potential demand in the United States alone.
Now the Wall St. Journal reports that since the waiting list has grown to six years, there is growing support for lifting the federal law that led to the shortage:
Dr. Matas, 59 years old, is a Canadian-born physician... [has]...been traveling the country trying to make the case that barring kidney sales is tantamount to sentencing some patients to death.
The federal ban on organ sales dates back to 1983, when Virginia physician Dr. H. Barry Jacobs proposed buying kidneys -- mostly from the indigent -- and selling them to whomever could afford to buy. His plan was met with widespread outrage. In Congress, then-Rep. Al Gore (D., Tenn.) introduced legislation banning the sale of organs. The bill became law in 1984.


  1. A very interesting slippery slope situation that the WSJ brings up. If a market price for kidneys can be established, what is to stop the eventual market pricing of all human "components". It could even be envisioned that at some point the timeless question, "What is one human life worth?" could be answered by a market price.

    While it is sad that so many people are waiting for kidneys, I would hope that an enterprising company could come up with a substitute (think Jarvik heart) rather than harvest the organs of indigents. I agree that market forces should work on this problem, but I certainly hope that the market force will be private enterprise developing a substitute.

  2. Luke - you better act fast on your hospital ship idea or the market will beat you to it with a US based solution - no hospital ship will be needed!

  3. Extremely sorry to say but this idea may jeopardize the life of some.
    The ban must have been put for a reason. A simple explanation could be the corresponding increase in crime. If we look at some of the countries where it is legal, we will see that such countries have lot of organ theft related crimes. Needless to say that when organ theft occurs, majority of the time it result in the death/murder of the victim. Australia could be a good example.

    If there will be a lucrative market, there will be a supply. Initially there will be lot of American people who would like to sell a kidney for $180,000. Soon you will find gangs seeling kidneys for less. What could be the source of such kidneys? Soon you will find international suppliers providing kidneys for even less, kidneys from Africa?
    From where those could be coming?

    For short term, creating awareness in the communities to develop more donors is probably the way to go. For long term, I agree with what Andre said about development of prosthetic kidneys.