Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts

22 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017

See all articles by Nicola Lacetera

Nicola Lacetera

University of Toronto - Strategic Management; University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 24, 2017


Recent research shows that properly devised economic incentives increase the supply of blood without hampering its safety; similar effects may be expected also for other body parts such as bone marrow and organs. These positive effects alone, however, do not necessarily justify the introduction of payments for supplying body parts; these activities concern contested commodities or repugnant transactions, i.e. societies may want to prevent certain ways to regulate a transaction even if they increased supply, because of ethical concerns. When transactions concern contested commodities, therefore, societies often face trade-offs between the efficiency-enhancing effects of trades mediated by a monetary price, and the moral opposition to the provision of these payments. In this essay, I first describe and discuss the current debate on the role of moral repugnance in controversial markets, with a focus on markets for organs, tissues, blood and plasma. I then report on recent research focused on understanding the trade-offs that individuals face when forming their opinions about how a society should organize certain transactions.

Keywords: Contested commodities, controversial markets, blood and organ donations, law and economics

JEL Classification: K110, K190, K230, K200, K380, K320, K300, K420, K400, I180, K290

Suggested Citation

Lacetera, Nicola, Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts (January 24, 2017). Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2905069, Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14/2017, Available at SSRN: or

Nicola Lacetera (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Strategic Management ( email )


University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics