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Producing Organ Donors


  • David H. Howard


Organ transplantation is one of the greatest technological achievements of modern medicine, but the ability of patients to benefit from transplantation is limited by shortages of transplantable organs. The median waiting time for patients placed on the kidney transplant waiting list is over three years. Median waiting times for hearts and livers are seven months and two years, respectively. From 1995 to 2005, the number of patients placed on the waiting list for organ transplants grew at an annualized rate of 4 percent per year. As a result of the growth in the demand for organs, many observers have questioned whether the current system is capable of providing enough transplantable organs. Transplant physicians and policymakers are seriously debating proposals to pay donors and their families and to change the legal regime governing the process of obtaining consent to donation. This paper provides an overview of the rules and practices that govern the organ procurement system and reviews proposals to increase donation rates, with a focus on deceased donors.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Howard, 2007. "Producing Organ Donors," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 25-36, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:3:p:25-36 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.3.25

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abadie, Alberto & Gay, Sebastien, 2006. "The impact of presumed consent legislation on cadaveric organ donation: A cross-country study," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 599-620, July.
    2. Gary S. Becker & Julio Jorge Elías, 2007. "Introducing Incentives in the Market for Live and Cadaveric Organ Donations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 3-24, Summer.
    3. Frey, Bruno S., 1993. "Motivation as a limit to pricing," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 635-664, December.
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    5. T. Randolph Beard & David L. Kaserman & Richard P. Saba, 2004. "Limits to Altruism: Organ Supply and Educational expenditures," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(4), pages 433-441, October.
    6. Byrne, Margaret M. & Thompson, Peter, 2001. "A positive analysis of financial incentives for cadaveric organ donation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 69-83, January.
    7. Thorne, Emanuel D, 1996. "The Cost of Procuring Market-Inalienable Human Organs," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 191-200, September.
    8. Barnett, A H & Kaserman, David L, 1995. "The "Rush to Transplant" and Organ Shortages," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 506-515, July.
    9. Hassin, Refael, 1985. "On the Optimality of First Come Last Served Queues," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 201-202, January.
    10. Howard, David H., 2002. "Why do transplant surgeons turn down organs?: A model of the accept/reject decision," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 957-969, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eyting, Markus & Hosemann, Arne & Johannesson, Magnus, 2016. "Can monetary incentives increase organ donations?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 56-58.
    2. Aimone, Jason A. & Ball, Sheryl & King-Casas, Brooks, 2016. "‘Nudging’ risky decision-making: The causal influence of information order," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 161-163.
    3. Ugur, Z.B., 2013. "From headscarves to donation : Three essays on the economics of gender, health and happiness," Other publications TiSEM 9cfb068c-c08e-47aa-8c44-f, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    4. Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Todd Elder & Brian Moore, 2011. "Donorcycles: Motorcycle Helmet Laws and the Supply of Organ Donors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(4), pages 907-935.
    5. Jason A. Aimone & Sheryl Ball & Brooks King-Casas, 2016. ""Nudging" Risky Decision-Making: A Note on the Causal Influence of Information Order," Working Papers e07-52, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Economics.
    6. van Dalen, Hendrik P. & Henkens, Kène, 2014. "Comparing the effects of defaults in organ donation systems," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 137-142.

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