Once again we've got the medical trade telling us that more lives could be saved if only more people would donate their organs. We agree entirely that more lives could be saved (and significant sums of money saved too) if more organ transplants took place. But the solution is, at least in part, to purchase organs for transplant, not to continue to rely upon the gift economy.
New statistics released today in the annual Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report shows the number of transplants has decreased from 4,655 last year to 4,431 in 2014/15. This is a five per cent decrease on last year and means that 224 fewer people received an organ transplant. At the end of March 2015, there were 6,943 patients on the transplant waiting list with a further 3,375 temporarily suspended from the list, because they were too ill to survive the operation. The NHS Blood and Transplant service is calling for everyone in the UK to discuss organ donation with their family so that they are aware of their wishes.
Of that four and a half thousand transplants, some 3,000 were kidney transplants. And obviously there's not much chance of a live donor offering a heart transplant, but both kidney and liver (and obviously bone marrow) can be done from a live donor. And the obvious way to encourage more people to offer organs while they are still alive is to pay them to do so.
This would save the NHS considerable amounts of money too: a kidney transplant is expensive, yes, but it's cheaper than dialysis over any significant period of time and those with those transplanted kidneys tend to survive a decade or so.
It's worth noting that there's only one country in the world that doesn't have a backlog of people on f#dialysis, dying as they wait for a scarce kidney. That's Iran. It's also worth noting that there's only one country that has paid live donation of kidneys. That's Iran again.
No, there's not a line of people hawking their bodies outside the clinic: the government pays a set fee for a donation on the grounds that, as above, it's cheaper to do that than pay for the years of dialysis. So, given that this is a system that works, saves lives and money, we should be doing it.
And as we so often point out around here, there are some things that are simply too important for us not to have markets in them.