What A Kidney Is Worth

by Patrick Appel

Harold Gershowitz and Amy Gershowitz Lask, a kidney recipient and an uncompensated kidney donor,  desperately want to reform our organ donation system:

The math is simple. In a country the size of the United States, a payment, either direct (cash, vouchers, or tax credits) or indirect (tuition, charitable donations, etc.) of, say, $20,000 to kidney donors would probably produce enough donated kidneys each year to eliminate or drastically reduce the backlog of approximately 83,000 people waiting for their turn to receive a donated kidney. This financial inducement would cost about $1.7 billion. The federal government currently pays 100 percent of the cost for treating most people with end-stage renal disease. With the average annual cost estimated at about $30,000 to maintain one person on dialysis, the taxpayers are paying about $8 billion a year to dialyze fellow citizens in kidney failure. Furthermore, people usually wait about five years to receive a donated kidney unless they are fortunate enough to have a living donor offer one of their two healthy kidneys. Thus, the actual total cost to the taxpayers of maintaining fellow citizens on dialysis for five years is approximately $40 billion.