Would you sell a kidney for £24,000?
On today's Talk Back, we debated the economics of kidney transplantation. An Australian doctor has proposed that the law in his country should be changed to permit people to sell one of their kidneys. This has triggered outrage in some quarters and a slew of international news articles. Professor Nadey Hakim, a specialist in transplant surgery at London's Hammersmith Hospital, joined me on the programme to defend the proposal. Dr Melissa McCullough, a medical ethics lecturer at Queen's University, argued that the idea was unethical. But is it such an unethical idea? Some key undisputed facts:
1. There is a severe shortage of kidney donors in the UK, which results in thousands of people dying for want of a kidney transplant each year.
2. A kidney donor can survive perfectly well on their single remaining kidney.
3. Donating a kidney poses no significant threat to the life of the donor.
4. Some kind of financial inducement could persuade more people to donate kidneys than at present.
Piece those statements together and they do present a prima facie case for changing the law to permit financial inducements. Professor Hakim doesn't believe a cheque for £24,000 is the only way to encourage donations. We could, for example, give people tax credits if they agree to become donors after they die; or provide medical insurance to those who become donors while alive (though this is more likely to work in the United States).
What do you think? Should the law be changed to permit the use of financial inducements to increase the supply of kidney donations -- either from live subjects or posthumously?