National Kidney Foundation Position on Payment for Organ Donation Makes News

New York, NY
June 2, 2006

The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rather than retreating from Mr. Epstein's dismissal, the National Kidney Foundation and I stand proudly, not only to endorse last month's Institute of Medicine report on organ donation, but to count ourselves among the millions of other "high-minded moralists" who oppose treating life-saving organs as commodities. There is a reason why Congress, through the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, wisely prohibited any "valuable consideration" -- including financial transaction -- to acquire, receive or transfer organs. Families decide to donate the organs of a loved one for altruistic reasons. Payment is an affront to those who have already donated, and evidence from a national poll indicates it may prove similarly offensive to future donors as well. The National Survey of Organ Donation (Wells, 2005) found that 10.8% of those polled would be less likely to grant consent for the organs of a deceased family member to be used for transplant if they were offered payment. And 68.2% said they would be neither more nor less likely to grant consent.

Overall, Mr. Epstein calls for "a sensible, above-board, functional organ market" where "price should be determined by supply and demand." We moralists can only pray that his proposed market mechanism for the transaction of hearts, lungs, kidneys and other life-saving human organs would work a little better than it does for the nation's consumers of gasoline.

Charles B. Fruit
Chairman
National Kidney Foundation
Atlanta

(Mr. Fruit is a 20-year kidney transplant recipient.)

New York Times
May 19, 2006
Organ Donors, for Love and Money (7 Letters)

To the Editor:

Sally Satel and I were both lucky enough to have found donors for kidney transplants that saved our lives. But I disagree with her endorsement of a market-based incentive strategy that would pay organ donors or their family members. That would set a dangerous precedent.

In 2005, a national survey found that 10.8 percent of those polled would be less likely to grant consent for the organs of a deceased family member to be used for transplant if they were offered payment; 68 percent said they would be neither more nor less likely to grant consent.

Thus, there is little data to show that financial incentives would increase donation rates. More likely, "paying for organs" would lead people to view organs as commodities.

The National Kidney Foundation has long maintained that financial incentives for donation would not allow the United States to maintain its values as a society, and that a voluntary system of organ donation, free of commercialization, is the only ethical way transplantation can be practiced in the United States.

The foundation is working to attack the organ shortage through improvement in organ-donation education for families and the establishment of standards to ensure the health and safety of living donors. A wholesale sellout to the law of supply and demand is not the answer.

Charles B. Fruit
Atlanta, May 17, 2006
The writer is chairman of the National Kidney Foundation.