Should living kidney donation be incentivized?

November 1, 2013 Hull & Hull LLP Health / Medical Tags: 0 Comments

A recent Canadian study suggests that compensation in the amount of $10,000 could greatly increase numbers of individuals willing to act as living kidney donors.  A reward system could also result in lower costs to provincial healthcare, due to the high costs associated with dialysis, and significantly improve the quality of life for those now awaiting kidney transplants.

The kidneys are a paired organ, but only one is required to remain in good health.  Living kidney transplants have the highest success rate of any transplant procedure, yet its frequency is much lower than it could be.  9,800 Ontarians are currently in need of a kidney transplant, and many suitable living donors, who are capable of saving lives, already exist.

The procedure for a living transplant is not risk-free.  However, with ongoing developments and highly experienced surgeons who are familiar with such procedures, the risks associated with donating a kidney are less significant than in the past.

There tend to be better survival rates for individuals who receive kidneys from live donors.  This is thought to be due to the better health of the kidney from a live donor, the potential for a match to be found prior to the removal of the kidney, and the immediate functioning of a live kidney after transplanted in its recipient.  The timing of the transplantation can be better planned, so that it is scheduled for a time when the donor and recipient are both in good health and less likely to suffer complications as a result of the procedure.

Currently, living donors benefit from the payment by the provincial government of donation-related costs, such as travel, parking, food, accommodation, and loss of income, but do not receive any further compensation.  Donating a kidney is a compassionate gesture, with the potential to save a life.  The typical alternative for the transplant recipient often involves living on dialysis until the death of a compatible registered organ donor.

There is some reluctance to implement this kind of financial incentive.  Some worry that paid donation could become a mere financial transaction or, subsequently, lead to the development of a two-tiered system, in which organs are donated to those who are willing to further incentivize the donation with their own funds.

Kidneys are not the only organ that can be donated by a living donor – parts of the liver, lungs, small bowel, and pancreas are all capable of being removed without compromising the health of the donor.  More information about becoming a living organ donor is available at the Gift of Life website.

Thank you for reading.

Ian M. Hull


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