Limiting financial disincentives in live organ donation: A rational solution to the kidney shortage

R. S. Gaston, G. M. Danovitch, R. A. Epstein, J. P. Kahn, Arthur J Matas, M. A. Schnitzler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Availability of kidney transplantation is limited by an inadequate supply of organs, with no apparent remedy on the immediate horizon and increasing reliance on living donors (LDs). While some have advocated financial remuneration to stimulate donation, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 expressly forbids the offer of 'valuable consideration.' However, recent developments indicate some fluidity in the definition of valuable consideration while evolving international standards highlight deficiencies (particularly regarding long-term care and follow-up) in the current American system. Recognizing that substantial financial and physical disincentives exist for LDs, we propose a policy change that offers the potential to enhance organ availability as well as address concerns regarding long-term care. Donors assume much greater risk than is widely acknowledged, risk that can be approximated for the purpose of determining appropriate compensation. Our proposal offsets donor risk via a package of specific benefits (life insurance, health insurance and a small amount of cash) to minimize hazard and ensure donor interests are protected after as well as before nephrectomy. It will fund medical follow-up and enable data collection so that long-term risk can be accurately assessed. The proposal should be cost effective with only a small increase in the number of LDs, and the net benefit will become greater if removal of disincentives stimulates even further growth. As importantly, by directly linking compensation to risk, we believe it preserves the essence of kidney donation as a gift, consistent with NOTA and implementable in the United States without altering current legal statutes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2548-2555
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Incentives
  • Kidney transplant
  • Living donor
  • Public policy


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