In 2003 there were more than 50,000 people on the waiting list to receive a kidney in the United States. That same year had only 12,000 donors. (Satz, 190) On average, for every 100,000 transplant operations needed only 10,000 operations are performed. (Andre) This is not due to a lack of medical expertise or knowledge. In fact, advances in the medical field have greatly increased our capacity to perform such operations. The problem is in the supply.
It is currently illegal to sell human organs in all developed countries of the world. People have the right to donate their organs, but not sell them. This lack of supply and a market has led to a black market that sells and trades organs. This black market lives mostly in third world countries. Specifically in rapidly developing countries like India and Brazil. These two countries have the infrastructure and medical knowledge to perform the operation and a large class of impoverished people who are willing to sell their organs.
Whether or not the selling of human organs should be legalized is a strongly debated issue, along with what sort of regulations or systems should be imposed. Economically, it would make since that legalizing an organ market would increase the supply of organs. Many fear that a legal organ market would have the same outcome as payment for blood in the United States.
Richard Titmuss, in his study The Gift Relationship, found that a blood market based off of donations only was more efficient then a blood market with monetary incentives for donors. In this study he compared the United States to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom had a system to collect blood, for those in need, that was strictly based on donations. While the United States’ system offered monetary incentives in hopes of getting more donations. Logically, one would assume that the United States would have a larger blood pool then the United Kingdom. People are expected to be more likely to sell their blood then to give it. Titmuss found the opposite to be true. In his study he found that not only did the United Kingdom have a greater supply of blood, but the blood was of a higher quality. In the United States people were much more likely to hide any known medical problems and give blood that they knew was not good to receive payment. In the United States the donors were mostly impoverished, donating for the money. Once he United States put a price tag on blood they lost what the United Kingdom had; a moral obligation to give the gift of life. Titmuss concluded that for blood, a market based off of donations is far superior then one based off of monetary incentives. A donation based market led to greater quantity and quality of blood.
In the book Why Some Things Should Not Be Sold, Debra Satz gives an example that illustrates this same kind of human behavior in parents. A day care was having a problem with parents arriving late to pick up their children, so they imposed a late fine on the parents. The day care assumed that the fine would give the parents extra incentive to arrive on time. Surprisingly the parent’s lateness doubled in length and continued even after the day care removed the fine three months later. One explanation of this bizarre behavior is in the parent’s moral obligation. Once the day care put a…