If governments and hospitals want to attract more kidney donors, they might want to consider paying living donors $10,000, according a recent study released by the University of Calgary.
This would raise the number of transplant surgeries by five per cent and it would help save an overall $340, since the patient would no longer be on dialysis while adding an extra 0.11 years to a patient’s lifetime compared to our current donor system.
If kidney donations were to go up by 10 per cent, patients would save $1,640 and add 0.21 years to their lifetime. And if rates improved to 20 per cent, we can always hope for the best, patients would save $4,030 and add 0.39 years to their lifetime. Time is money and in this case, patients could gain time and spend less money. There would be wins all around.
Canada faces an unfortunate shortage in organ transplants. It leaves some patients on waiting lists for years as they undergo treatment and hope that they will be next in line for a donor organ, but it also contributes to a demand for black market organs overseas. Unfortunately, the number of donors hasn’t changed over the last decade, which means it leaves many people out of luck.
In 2011, there were 4,500 Canadians waiting for an organ to save their lives, while about 250 people died while waiting, according to the Canadian Health Institute for Health Information.
There’s a lot of debate surrounding the use of financial incentives to attract more donations. While we expect that they’d likely bring in more donations, the idea brings up many moral and ethical issues. Naysayers say this could exploit the poor since many people in poverty could see selling their organs as another income stream. Of course, that would only work if they were healthy and didn’t run out or organs to sell.
It’s understandable that it can be tricky to encourage donors because it’s not as simple as giving away money and walking away. If you were to donate an organ, there’d likely be a recovery period, which not everyone can afford, but also, how would the financial incentive apply to someone who died and donated their organs?
Meanwhile, instead of financial incentives, another idea that’s been floated around is an opt-out plan. This means that any Canadian resident could be automatically registered to donate their organs, unless they choose to opt-out of the program. Prince Edward Island considered this option and countries such as Greece, Spain and Luxembourg currently practice this idea.
But that doesn’t solve everything. The Economist attributes Spain’s high deceased donor rates to the smooth organ donation process, along with the country’s marketing of the importance of organ donations.
Donating an organ isn’t like donating blood and because of that there are many more issues to consider before someone goes ahead and makes that choice. But there’s one thing we know for sure, Canada needs to improve its system, not only to save more lives but to relieve some of the burden on our healthcare system.
What do you think about giving money or tax breaks to organ donors?