Writings about organ donation and compensation are numerous. We offer a sampling that covers the major issues rather than a comprehensive list.

We list some writings opposed to compensating organ donors so that readers can weigh the arguments. We are confident that, after considering the arguments, most readers will come down in favor of compensation for donors. This is an issue that does not break along typical political lines; there are liberals and conservatives on both sides of it.

Recent writings

" What If We Paid People to Donate Their Kidneys to Strangers? " by Megan McArdle. See also the comments, in which many readers express objections.

" The Terrible Toll of the Kidney Shortage ," by Frank McCormick, Philip J. Held, and Glenn M. Chertow — See the informative table and chart

" Student loan forgiveness and other incentives could save lives. Here’s how ," by Matt Cartwright and Al Roth — Op-ed by the Congressman who has sponsored legislation on compensating donors and the Nobel Prize-winning economist who improved the existing system of allocating organs

" An Examination of the Issue of Bone Marrow Compensation ," by Valerie Vilariño — Working paper (hence somewhat long) examining why a market in bone marrow has not developed since compensation was made legal in August 2017

" The Case for a Market for Livers ," by Nikhil Ramanathan — Working paper discussing the current liver transplant system and how under compensated organ donation, donation of livers might differ somewhat from donation of kidneys

" If We Pay Football Players, Why Not Kidney Donors? ," by Phillip J. Cook and Kimberly D. Krawiec

" Life Expectancy with Chronic Kidney Disease: An Educational Review ," by Guy H. Neild — See Table 2 for statistics comparing life expectancy in dialysis versus transplant patients, based on a large data set from Alberta

" It May Sound Awful, but We Really Do Need to Pay for Human Organs ," by Marc Joffe

" Gene Editing Spurs Hope for Transplanting Pig Organs Into Humans ," by Gina Kolata — Note that such transplantation is still some distance in the future

Why I gave my kidney to a stranger — and why you should consider doing it too ,” by Dylan Matthews

Organs for the mentally disabled ,” by Sally Satel and Kurt Schuler

Right to try, right to buy, right to test ,” by Sally Satel — Discusses bone marrow transplants, which the federal government has interpreted as being akin to organ donations

"Bone marrow mismatch: How compensating bone marrow donors can end the transplant shortage and save lives," by Samuel Hammond — Summary and full report  UPDATE: Regulation prohibiting compensation for bone marrow donors withdrawn by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as of August 1, 2017; see News page)

" Wasting Kidneys: The Multivisceral Transplant Conundrum ," by Ike Brannon

Articles for general audiences

Sally Satel, M.D., has collected many of her articles on organ policy here

America's Organ Transplant Law Is Criminally Unfair to Donors ,” by Sigrid Fry-Revere and David Donadio

The Case for Kidney Markets ,” by Benjamin Hippen, M.D., and, on the opposing side, “ Is the Body Property? ” by Peter Lawler

For Those Who Desperately Need Organ Donations ,” by Michael Novak

Academic articles

Google Scholar can introduce you to academic writing on compensation for organ donation. We list only a few contributions.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Government Compensation of Kidney Donors ,” by P. J. Held, F. McCormick, A. Ojo, and J. P. Roberts — The Stanford University study mentioned elsewhere on this site; estimates a saving of 100,000 lives, $46 billion a year in net benefits to American society, and $12 billion a year to the federal budget from reduced need for dialysis

" Can We Increase Organ Donation by Reducing the Financial Disincentives? An Experimental Analysis ," by Zack Hawley, Danyang Li, and Nicole A. Turgeon — "sizable increases in the organ donation rate are achievable if we reduce the level of financial disincentives present."

" Allocating Scarce Organs: How a Change in Supply Affects Transplant Waiting Lists ," by Stacy Dickert-Conlin, Todd Elder, and Keith Teltser — Concludes that where motorcycle helmet laws have been repealed, resulting in more motorcyclists dying in accidents, for each new organ that becomes available in a market due to the death of a donor killed in a motor vehicle accident, roughly seven new candidates join the local waitlist,

Donor Compensation and the Elimination of the Organ Shortage in Spain: Evidence from Break Point Analysis ,” by Franklin G. Mixon, Jr. and Kamal P. Upadhyaya — Explains how Spain has stabilized, though not eliminated, the waiting list for kidneys by offering some compensation to families of deceased donors

The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy devoted its December 2009 issue to arguments for and against compensating organ donors (requires payment to see full articles)


These books offer detailed presentations of the case for alleviating the shortage of organs for transplant by allowing compensation for donors.

Kidney for Sale by Owner , by Mark J. Cherry

Black Markets: The Supply and Demand of Body Parts , by Michele Goodwin

Stakes and Kidneys: Why Markets in Human Body Parts are Morally Imperative , by James Stacey Taylor


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network data page — Facts and figures

United States Renal Data System  — National data system on chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease; see in particular its annual data report

Living Donor 101 — Information about what’s involved with being a living donor of an organ; useful though rather jaundiced

National Kidney Foundation — A leading advocacy organization that however was strongly opposed to compensating organ donors (an attitude that now seems to be changing)

National Catholic Bioethics Center — An organization that has been critical on philosophical grounds of compensating organ donors

Market Design — Web site of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Alvin Roth, whose ideas for improving efficiency are embodied in the current U.S. organ donation matching system; also discusses matching in other areas of life

Waitlist Zero  — An organization dedicated to eliminating the shortage of kidneys by increasing donation


Should You Be Allowed to Sell Your Kidneys? — Professor James Stacey Taylor, author of Stakes and Kidneys , makes the case for the affirmative in two and a half minutes

Debate on Sale of Human Organs  — Benjamin Rush Institute (2 hours)