Saturday, February 24, 2007

No-give, no take

Marginal Revolution highlighted that Israel was considering legislation which would give priority for organ transpant receipt to people who had opted into organ-donation.

Previously I had written on this in two posts, one on the sale of organs, and one on enforcing against illegal brokers for organs. In general, I'd assumed that there was the ban on sale of organs meant that the price of organs was effectively zero. Alexander Tabarrok argues:

Economists argue that anytime the price of a good or service is held below its market demand, a shortage develops. Just as government-mandated rent controls imposed in New York and other cities have led to a shortage of housing, government rules that outlaw buying or selling organs on the open market hold the price of organs at zero and make an organ shortage inevitable.

Tabarrok goes on to suggest a "no-give no-take" rule. Reading the article, I felt a tickle of a reminder and went to read up the Human Organ Transplant Act FAQs and found that we already have such a system in place.

People who opt out of the existing HOTA, as well as those who are not covered under the existing HOTA, will receive lower priority on the organ transplant waiting list, in the event that they should require an organ transplant in the future.

Does Singapore still experience shortages of organs for transplant? I believe so, but I'm not sure. If we do, it might imply that the no-give no-take rule is not enough to ensure that there is no organ shortage. One reason why, might be that people tend to be optimistic and place little value on the possibility of receiving transplants in future. That would still put the price of organs at a low level which leads to organ shortages.

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