Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

An Economic Model for Distributing Body Organs

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

An Economic Model for Distributing Body Organs

Article excerpt


According to Fuchs, (1998) there are three major problems evident in our health care delivery system in this country. These problems are cost, access and health levels in this country. He goes on to explain that these problems are real symptoms of a number of real economic problems found in the delivery of health services to most Americans. I would like to add a fourth problem to this list that includes the inability of the health care system to supply needed body organs to ill individuals causing thousands of deaths every year. Like Fuchs, I believe this shortage of body organs in America is not the problem but a symptom of the need for the availability of a market for body organs. This is an area where intense economic analysis may be very useful in offering solutions to the shortage of body organs for transplantation.

This type of analysis involves normative economics which includes policy economics. In other words, should there be a policy concerning the availability of body organs through a market mechanism that would involve the price system. These decisions involving medical care are part of the larger field of health economics. Getzen (2007) points out that health economics involves 'value judgments', scarcity issues and trade-offs. They also involve trying to make the health care delivery system become more efficient in the allocation of scarce resources. Rinehart (1988) argues that the price system in a capitalistic system plays a crucial role in keeping supply and demand equal, thus avoiding shortages. These same market forces can solve the shortage of body organs in the United States if they were allowed to work freely and without government regulation.

The science of economics focuses on the price system and the market forces of supply and demand to bring scarce resources to buyers who can afford the price. This system of capitalism has worked very well in making the United States the richest nation in the world today. Economic markets are capable of solving shortages of body organs and seem to be the only solution to helping very ill individuals acquire the body organs that they need to live. According to Greenspan, (2007) the system of capitalism works best under an economic system based on competition. Authoritarian rules, including laws and regulation that prevent competition, make it very difficult to resolve problems created by market imperfections. Therefore, the free capitalistic system works best at avoiding shortages of resources.

The basic economic problem is how to allocate scarce resources in order to satisfy human wants. According to Getzen, (2007) the focus of economic analysis is on the market, that includes buyers and sellers who get together to determine a price for goods and services. This market usually results in a mutual agreement between buyers and sellers that makes each side of the market satisfied with the transaction. Getzen, (2007) also argues that even though economic theory has evolved to examine health issues it is still only one piece of the picture. Therefore, even though economics drives many health decisions there is much more to health care decisions than pure economic theory. Economics can still be a very useful tool in deciding who should receive scarce resources available from our two trillion dollar health care delivery system.

The market is the point at which buyers and sellers exchange dollars for goods and services. The price of the good or service is determined by the equilibrium between demand and supply. The fundamental theorem of exchange demands that both parties must be benefiting if they freely agree to make a trade. Can the system solve the shortage of body organs that can save the lives of thousands of Americans every year?


The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 made it illegal to offer or receive payment for organ transplantation. …

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