Dynamist Blog

Economics Saves Lives

Kidney patients in Boston can thank economist Alvin Roth (who could really use a website designer) for a clever new system of pairing living donors. The Boston Globe's Scott Allen reports:

Becky Borchert, a Wisconsin nurse, was eager to donate a kidney to her gravely ill friend in New York, but she had type A blood and her friend had type B. Richard Krafton, a school administrator in Massachusetts with advanced kidney disease, had the opposite problem: The friend who wanted to give him a kidney had type B blood, not a match for Krafton's type A.

But last week, Borchert saved her friend's life by giving a kidney to Krafton, a man she did not know, in the first test of a system that brings together strangers to exchange organs for transplant. At the same moment that surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital began removing Borchert's kidney for Krafton, another surgical team at New York Presbyterian Hospital started taking a kidney from Krafton's friend, Steve Proulx, to implant in Borchert's friend, who asked to remain anonymous.

"This transplant could not have happened if we didn't have this program available," said Dr. Dicken Ko, who transplanted the kidney into Krafton. Organizers say the New England Kidney Exchange, a computer system that matches kidney disease patients with compatible organ donors, could eventually arrange 2,000 to 3,000 transplants a year if applied nationally, giving people like Krafton a way to shortcut the current three- to seven-year wait for a transplant. Krafton got his new kidney and a second lease on life in just under a year.

Read the whole thing. Ah, instrumental rationality--so much better at saving lives than blabbering about the "sacredness" of the body.

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