The Freakonomics team has added their voices to a chorus calling for organ markets, and those with some street-cred on the topic (like donor Virginia Postrel) are blogging it up. I’d be more sympathetic to the economic approach to the topic if it showed a bit more concern for the plight of those unable to pay for organs (and for the very poor in LDC’s whose organs are most likely to be utilized). There are many ways to do so: Steven Calandrillo’s approach to the topic is one of the best current treatments that injects concerns of social justice into the organ shortage crisis.
In short, I think I’d be ready for an organ market if one were to tax all the transactions to assure wider access to the less advantaged. (I’ve already blogged a bit about this in the context of ventilators.). There’s some indication that California is trying to assure that new medical research directly addresses concerns of affordability and access. Those concerns should animate innovation in organ procurement, too.
PS: Just to provide some empirical evidence to back up my egalitarian concerns, consider this stat:
“Over the years 1950 to 1970, for each additional dollar made by those in the bottom 90 percent of income earners, those in the top 0.01 percent received an additional $162. In contrast, from 1990 to 2002, for every added dollar made by those in the bottom 90 percent, those in the uppermost 0.01 percent (today around 14,000 households) made an additional $18,000.”
from Correspondents of The New York Times, Class Matters 186 (2005).