COLUMN: Pay It Forward: The future of human organ donation?
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing the idea of paying it forward.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney had a heart transplant earlier this year, after being on a waitlist for almost two years. He was one of the lucky ones because many people die waiting for a heart, kidney, or other organs. Experts agree there’s a severe shortage of human organs and it will likely get worse.
This week, we’ve considered how the principle of “pay it forward” worked in a Great Lakes rescue, a young Detroiter’s effort to help the jobless, Good Samaritan experiments, and even in the form of an app.
Could the pay-it-forward principle also remedy the human-organ shortage?
There are various attempts to solve the shortage. When you get or renew your driver’s license, you can check the box to become an organ donor. Economists offer a market solution: Pay donors. Countries like Singapore pay a considerable sum to someone who is willing to donate an organ. Israel has a “no give, no take” rule: Sign up to donate your organs or you'll have low priority if you need one in the future.
Kidney chains implement the principle of paying it forward. Here, a grateful relative of a kidney recipient donates a kidney to a third party. We’ve discussed one of these chains before, where you can see a video about it. The chains can grow to be quite long.
Life Sharers is a private nonprofit network in the U.S. that implements a variation of the pay-it-forward principle. Here’s how it works, in their words: “LifeSharers members promise to donate upon their death, and they give fellow members first access to their organs. As a LifeSharers member, you will have access to organs that otherwise may not be available to you. As the LifeSharers network grows, more and more organs may become available to you — if you are a member.” A member can still donate organs first to family members.
What do you think of these solutions to the human-organ shortage?
Should we just make it an open market and pay donors?
Or, do you think "Pay It Forward" can solve the problem?