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Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts

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  • Nicola Lacetera

Abstract

Research shows that properly devised economic incentives increase the supply of blood without hampering its safety; similar effects may be expected also for other body parts such as bone marrow and organs. These positive effects alone, however, do not necessarily justify the introduction of payments for supplying body parts; these activities concern contested commodities or repugnant transactions, i.e. societies may want to prevent certain ways to regulate a transaction even if they increased supply, because of ethical concerns. When transactions concern contested commodities, therefore, societies often face trade-offs between the efficiency-enhancing effects of trades mediated by a monetary price, and the moral opposition to the provision of these payments. In this essay, I first describe and discuss the current debate on the role of moral repugnance in controversial markets, with a focus on markets for organs, tissues, blood and plasma. I then report on recent studies focused on understanding the trade-offs that individuals face when forming their opinions about how a society should organize certain transactions.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Lacetera, 2016. "Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts," NBER Working Papers 22673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22673
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    3. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario & Stith, Sarah S., 2014. "Removing financial barriers to organ and bone marrow donation: The effect of leave and tax legislation in the U.S," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 43-56.
    4. Elias, Julio & Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2016. "Efficiency-Morality Trade-Offs in Repugnant Transactions: A Choice Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 10187, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Bilgel, Fırat & Galle, Brian, 2015. "Financial incentives for kidney donation: A comparative case study using synthetic controls," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 103-117.
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    13. Julio J. Elias & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis, 2015. "Sacred Values? The Effect of Information on Attitudes toward Payments for Human Organs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 361-365, May.
    14. Satz, Debra, 2010. "Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195311594.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D47 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Market Design
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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