Should people be paid to donate their organs?
Organ transplantation is one of the chief glories of modern medicine. But it's a miracle tragically out of reach for many thousands of people whose lives might be saved.
There just aren't enough organs to go around. About 75,000 Americans are on the waiting list for kidney transplants. But in the coming year, just 18,000 will get them. That's only one in four.
It's not as though the others will eventually get kidneys if they just wait, sustained in the meantime by dialysis. In the next year, nearly 4,000 of those patients will die waiting. At least 1,200 others will fall off the list because they develop complications that make them too sick to withstand a transplant.
Thousands more transplant candidates might be saved if more Americans signed organ donation cards, if more families consented to donation of their loved ones' organs, and if medical personnel approached the families of potential donors more often. But the supply of cadaveric organs has been disappointingly flat.
So in recent years, there's been a push to persuade living Samaritans — relatives, friends and even strangers — to donate one of their kidneys. That's helped, but not enough.
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The situation has sparked recent debate about what was once unthinkable — paying people to donate organs. Six experts recently tackled that emotional issue in an Oxford-style debate, the last of this season's events in the Intelligence Squared U.S. series.
The proposition: "We Should Legalize the Market for Human Organs."
By the end of the session, many of the "undecideds" were persuaded. Before the debate, 29 percent were uncertain. Afterward, that declined to 9 percent.
Those who favored buying and selling organs went from 44 percent to 60 percent. But those opposed inched up only 4 points, from 27 to 31 percent.
The debate took place before a capacity crowd on May 13 at the Asia Society and Museum in New York City. Ira Flatow, host of NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday, moderated.
Here are some highlights: