Can We Increase Organ Donation by Reducing the Financial Disincentives? An Experimental Analysis

Tuesday, June 14, 2016: 1:35 PM
G65 (Huntsman Hall)

Author(s): Zackery Hawley; Danyang Li; Kurt E. Schnier; Nicole Turgeon

Discussant: Mario Macis

The use of financial incentives for organ donation is forbidden under the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA).  However, the current rift between the supply and demand for organs is substantially larger than it was when NOTA was enacted and this has led a number of discussions in both medical and economics literature suggest that we should take bigger steps toward reducing the financial disincentives associated with being an organ donor. Instead of focusing on ethical arguments regarding reducing financial disincentives, our research evaluates how the supply of organs responds as we reduce the financial disincentives of being an organ donor and whether or not reducing financial disincentives will crowd out altruistically motivated donors. Our research provides insights into the movements along the current supply curve as we reduce these financial disincentives associated with being an organ donor.

We utilize an economics laboratory experiment to conduct our study. The experiment consists of four treatments across different levels of donation related costs, which reflect the financial disincentives associated with being an organ donor. Our results indicated that sizable increases in the organ donation rate are achievable if we reduce the level of financial disincentives present.  The largest observed donation rates arise when a financial return is offered for being an organ donor, something which is prohibited under NOTA, but nearly 76% of the gains observed under the positive gains can be achieved all of the financial disincentives are eliminated.