There are roughly 96,000 people on the transplant list for kidneys in the United States. About 4,500 of them will die waiting for a match this year.
Kidney disease is on the rise in the nation. For patients nearing kidney failure, transplants are the best and often only methods of treatment. However, the rate of donations, from both living and deceased donors, has remained relatively unchanged in the last decade.
So how can the U.S. meet the demand for donors? Give people a couple thousand dollars in exchange for their kidneys, suggests a study published last week in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, which focuses on kidney-disease research and patient care.
The idea goes like this: Pay living kidney donors $10,000. The monetary incentive would then increase the number of transplants by 5 percent, which the researchers call a “very conservative estimate.” More transplants would mean better patient outcomes. And hospitals and insurance companies would save money on dialysis and other care for now-healthier patients.
Last year, 16,812 kidney transplants were performed in the U.S. Of these, 5,769 came from living donors. A 5 percent increase, applied to these figures, would add about 288 kidney donations a year.
In the study, the researchers used average costs of dialysis and similar care, transplantation and survival rates, and time spent on transplant lists to compare a payment program with typical organ-donation systems. Some of the figures and databases were Canadian, but the researchers say the results hold for the U.S. A hypothetical government or third-party-administered program that paid donors, they argue, would be less costly and more effective than the current American system, which is managed by UNOS, a private, nonprofit organization.
In the U.S., it is illegal for “any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation,” under the National Organ Transplant Act. While living donors don’t get paid for their kidneys, Medicare or private health insurance does cover the process.
Proponents of legalizing payment for organs point to the generally accepted donation of hair, blood, sperm, and eggs. While these have minimal medical risk for the donor, “it is accepted that they are sold for financial gain,” wrote surgeon Amy Friedman in a 2006 study in favor of legalizing payments for living organ donations. Many of these donations come from economically disadvantaged populations, and a hypothetical program that exchanges money for organs runs the same risk of exploiting the most needy.
There have been attempts to at least somewhat compensate living donors for their kidneys. In 2002, a former Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Bill Frist, R-Tenn., introduced legislation that would have provided reimbursement for travel expenses for living donors. In 2009, the National Kidney Foundation, a New-York based nonprofit, recommended covering funeral expenses for families who donate a relative’s organs. For some, however, even picking up the tab for travel and funeral expenses is going too far, nearing bribery. “You’re edging towards financial incentives rather than compensation,” one bioethicist told USA Today in 2009.
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."