Dynamist Blog

Kidney Blogging Cont'd

Several readers have called my attention to this Freakoonomics blog posting on an Israeli court's ruling that kidney donors should be paid by the country's HMOs. (The original Ha'aretz article is here.) I was particularly struck by this comment from "kazulanth":

I work in transplant, and off the top of my head there are three major reasons why it's a great cost-saving move for insurance companies to pay donors. First, the cost for just finding and getting a cadaveric kidney is billed to the insurance as $25,000 flat fee. So right there, having a living kidney donor is much cheaper for the HMO, which is a good reason to pay living donors. Also, often people wait so long on the list that they become sicker and are more expensive, so if they've got a living donor and can be transplanted earlier, so much the better. Third, dialysis is EXTREMELY expensive, and transplant is a really cheap option comparatively, even when you factor in the lifetime of drugs. $800 a month of drugs versus $3000 per week of dialysis.

People who worry about organ markets because they're concerned about the poor are on the wrong side of the issue. Poor patients, and there are many of them, would greatly benefit from payment, which would also save taxpayers money compared to keeping people on an infinite entitlement to dialysis.

In other news, this Dallas Morning News story on a local teacher's kidney donation to her father-in-law does an admirable job of explaining how straightforward the procedure is. And the donor makes a nice point in favor of live donation:

"I couldn't ask for a better father-in-law," she said. "Often, when someone gets an organ transplant, the donor's dead.

"This way, I get to see the effects of the transplant, and I'm very much alive, and we have this cool connection."

On a down note, Lisa Cunningham, the Boston-area kidney patient who had to switch hospitals when hers refused to do a transplant from a stranger, has lost her donor for medical reasons.

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