In and around New York City, there are 7,800 people on organ transplant waiting lists; last year, only 682 of those people received organs. Despite the fact that there are thousands of bodies no longer in need of their organs, many of those organs aren’t viable transplant options—either because their owners decided not to donate for religious or other reasons, or because they simply never took the time to navigate New York’s complicated process for becoming a donor. For this reason, New York City will start sending an organ-recovery team behind ambulances on 911 calls—but will it help?
The organ-recovery team will only be able to gather organs, after all, if the patient is already a donor—and many aren’t. How do we fix that problem? We could do what some other countries do, and make everyone a donor unless they choose to opt out. But that would never happen here, writes Ariel Kaminer in the New York Times. So what about paying people for their organs? One Nobel laureate has proposed we pay people to donate while still living—why not give up one unneeded kidney or a chunk of your liver for $30,000? But even if we don’t go that far, we could pay donors after their death, by compensating their family for the funeral expenses, Kaminer writes. “That doesn’t seem quite so outrageous, does it?”