Cash for Kidneys? Utilizing Incentives to End America's Organ Shortage

65 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2005 Last revised: 15 Oct 2015

See all articles by Steve Calandrillo

Steve Calandrillo

University of Washington - School of Law


Over eighty-five thousand Americans are currently on the national wait list to receive kidneys, livers, hearts or other human organs due to the failure of their own. Sadly, over half of these people will die while waiting for the miracle of life to arrive. This tragedy is not due to unavailability of potential organs, but rather the reality that most suitable organs are taken to the grave with their owners instead of donated to those whose lives hang in the balance.

Some scholars have suggested a legalized market for human organs in response, but morality and distributive justice concerns have made such a solution unlikely. We must therefore consider ways to incentivize organ donation far more effectively than the law does today. We could allocate organ priority based on one's own willingness to donate, or offer tax breaks and driver's license fee discounts to those who sign organ donor cards. If any form of monetary inducement runs afoul of federal law, we should consider presumed consent statutes as well as facilitating "paired organ exchanges" between strangers that involve no financial consideration at all. In sum, if we do not act aggressively to improve America's organ donation law and procurement policy, tens of thousands will pay for our failures with their lives.

Keywords: organ, donation, kidney, incentives, NOTA

JEL Classification: I1, I10, I11, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Calandrillo, Steve, Cash for Kidneys? Utilizing Incentives to End America's Organ Shortage. George Mason Law Review, Vol. 13, pp. 69-133, 2004, Available at SSRN:

Steve Calandrillo (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195-3020
United States
206-685-2403 (Phone)


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