Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

I have long felt that the ongoing shortage of body organs for transplants is an artificial result of federal regulations that prohibit any financial incentives for those who — upon death — donate their bodies to save the lives of others. As is so often the case when government policies fail (the United Kingdom and Canada both have similar “no-compensation” policies), additional regulations are adopted. The UK and Canada are now considering rules that would essentially allow the state to “steal” the organs of the dead. The authors of this article suggest we go the other direction by allowing financial incentives for those who choose organ donation.
This seems to me like “Economics 101,” but financial incentives are the only proven way to create desired results while also respecting personal freedom.

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4 Replies to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”

  1. While I have no doubt that financial incentives would help increase organ donars, there is a much simpler solution to this (and many other government regulation type ideas). When creating options for people the government should use an opt-out approach for items that are generally believed to be ‘good.’ If it is good for you (or society) people should have to opt-out of the program.
    Barry Schwartz author of “The Paradox of Choice” discusses this very situation in
    his speech to google
    [] about 58 minutes into the speech.
    Basically he says 85% of people in the US support organ donation, but only about 28% are actually organ donars and he explains the difference between these numbers based on opt-out vs. opt-in. Organ donation in America is currently an opt-in approach so you have to specifically agree/request to be an organ donar. He believes that if you had to opt-out of organ donation the number of people who are organ donars should approach the 80+% that believe in organ donation. This is based on fact that there is a high likelyhood that people will do nothing and options should be organized so that if they do nothing it will be in their (societies) best interest.
    The “Libertarian Paternalism” section at the end is a great view (as is his whole speech). Which is based on a paper by Sunstein & Taler, University of Chicago Law Review, 2003.

  2. I appreciate your comments Ralthor, but I wonder why the government should have a preemptive right to the body parts of the deceased. If you as an individual own your body as opposed to the government, doesn’t it make sense that you should have the final say over what happens to your body upon death?

  3. Check here for a voluntary way around government regulation. Don Boudreaux has a series of four posts on the overwhelming benefits of having markets in human organs. Here is the 4th post; and you can find links to the other three from it.

  4. Financial insentives are probably the best approach, but I am a realist and given the current state of our government I doubt that will be an option.
    A better way to increase organ donation is to have an opt-out approach. It will increase the number of organ donars and since you have to opt-out, by definition if you are not an organ donar you have specifically stated that you don’t want to be. They can’t later decide that since there is no other proof that you didn’t want to donate your organs you probably wanted to, but were to lazy to check the box.
    I see many aspects of Libertarian Paternalism as ways of compromising with the other political beliefs. The social welfare of liberalism and the moral enforcement of (new) conservatism can find their place without giving up rights.

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