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What would happen if Americans were paid to donate their kidneys?

The latest to jump into the debate is researcher Thomas G. Peters of the University of Florida College of Medicine at Jacksonville with a paper on kidney donation published in the journal JAMA Surgery on Wednesday.


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In the new study, researchers surveyed Americans about their willingness to become living kidney donors and how being compensated for it would affect their thinking. The study involved calls to registered voters in June 2014. Nearly 17,000 Americans indicated they were willing to complete the survey, and the data from 1,011 people representative of the U.S. population were used in the analysis.

After the researchers gathered some demographic information from the respondents, they were asked how open they were to being a living kidney donor with no mention yet of the possibility of compensation. They categorized the respondents into three groups: those willing to donate to anyone including strangers, those only willing to donate to a restricted group, such as family and friends, and those unwilling to donate to anyone.

A high number — 68 percent — said they were open to donating to anyone, 23 percent said they would be open to donating to friends and family, and just 9 percent said they would not do it. There was little variance in terms of gender, age and employment status.

Then the surveyors asked respondents to consider the same thing — but if they were paid a $50,000 compensation.

The problem with paying people for kidneys is that a crime syndicate could compel people to give up their kidneys. 

For those already willing to donate to anyone, 63 percent said that the payment would make them even more likely to do it. Of those in the second group, composed of those willing to donate to a restricted group, 60 percent said they would be more likely to consider it. And in the third group that was unwilling to donate, 26 percent said they would reconsider because of the money.

The researchers also found that there were some people who would be more reluctant to donate if money was involved. In the first group 8 percent would be less willing, 9 percent in the second group, and 18 percent in the third group.

I'm curious why some people would be more reluctant to donate if money was involved. I can understand not being happy with the idea of 'being paid', but to the extent of not donating at all sounds cruel.

"One type of donor compensation is to reimburse all costs, such as lost wages, travel expenses, and follow-up care. Such payments are legal and not contentious, but many donors do not qualify for assistance through existing programs.911 Thus, donor financial hardship remains a significant barrier. Another type of compensation, which is controversial but potentially more effective, is the provision of financial incentives beyond expenses. These may take the form of an in-kind reward (eg, a contribution to the donor’s retirement fund, an income tax credit, or a tuition voucher) or even a direct cash payment. Persons favoring payment believe that living kidney donations would increase and waitlist deaths would decrease and that remuneration could be ethical with respect to the donor.12,13 Those against financial incentives disagree and assert that even with a transparent and well-regulated compensation program, potential donors would be subject to coercion, undue influence, and body commodification.14 Additionally, it has been argued that payment would generate such a negative public response that living donation rates might actually decrease.15,16"

Something about making it transactional takes away from the giving. 

So 'donating' is a bragging-right, pat-on-the-back kind of thing. "Heavens, what will people think of me if I got money” (and pish to the people I might save).

Not necessarily. Donating can be about how it makes you feel.

Transactional sometimes does not feel good. 

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