The shortage of kidneys for transplant: Altruism, exchanges, opt in vs. opt out, and the market for kidney
In 2007 we published a paper on organ transplants that used data from 1990–2005. We proposed a radical solution of paying individuals to donate kidneys, and claimed that this would clean out the waiting list for kidney transplants in a short period of time. In this paper, we revisit the topic, and examine 14 years of additional data to see if anything fundamental has changed. We show that the main altruistic based policies implemented, such as kidney exchanges or opt out systems for organ procurement, have been unable to solve the problem of shortages. Our analysis suggests that, because of the reaction of direct living donors to increases in other sources of donations, the supply curve of kidney transplants is highly inelastic to altruistic policies. In contrast, a market in organs would eliminate organ shortages and thereby eliminate thousands of needless deaths.