Kidney Kickbacks: Organs and Incentives

By Howley, Kerry | Reason, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Kidney Kickbacks: Organs and Incentives


Howley, Kerry, Reason


CONGRESS officially banned the exchange of body parts for "valuable consideration" in 1984, based on the principle that human beings shouldn't treat their organs as commodities. Mindful of that proscription, state governments are suggesting that people treat their organs as tax breaks instead.

Donating a kidney can involve lost wages, travel expenses, medical costs, and financial hardships that limit the number of potential donors. Legislators in eight states are debating the possibility of providing some relief, allowing living organ donors to deduct as much as $10,000 on their state income tax returns for costs related to their donations. Eleven states already have such deductions, which Wisconsin pioneered in 2004.

Such incentives may chip away at the taboo against trading organs for cash, but they're far from the ideal of a free market. They're regressive, since people who pay lower income taxes will find it harder to cash in. Unemployed or sporadically employed donors are unlikely to be compensated at all. …

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