Buy or Die, Update

Josh Wright —  5 June 2006

Via Marginal Revolution, I came across this letter from the National Kidney Foundation to the AEI in anticipation of AEI’s upcoming event (June 12th) addressing the national organ shortage (previous post here). Here’s an excerpt:

The officers and staff of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) were surprised to learn that AEI has scheduled a forum entitled “Buy or Die: Market Mechanisms to Reduce the National Organ Shortage” that will be held on June 12, 2006. We agree that there should be open discussion of all reasonable approaches to increase organ donation, and that the shortage of organs for transplantation deserves greater attention by policy makers. Nevertheless, we believe that the concept of financial incentives has been adequately debated for 15 years, begining with the National Kidney Foundation’s 1991 workshop on “Controversies in Organ Donation,” and culminating in the definitive Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that was issued late in April 2006. We don’t see how an AEI forum would contribute substantively to debate on this issue.

Virginia Postrel gets it exactly right when she describes the NKF’s behavior as “reprehensible, especially given its mandate.” Like the NKF, I too, would be quite uncomfortable if I had to argue that supply curves did not indeed slope upward. For another take on the IOM report relied upon by the NKF, see Richard Epstein’s WSJ Op-ed here.

UPDATE: See also Elizabeth Nowicki’s earlier post on the possible implications of Planned Parenthood v. Casey on the market for organs.