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Postrel's Kidney Crusade

Virginia Postrel continues her slow-motion smackdown of the National Kidney Foundation -- not a likely target for a smackdown, you say? read on -- this time, for some creative math justifying their position that it's never, ever, ever OK to pay organ donors. Even if it would save lives.

USA Today weighs in here, with an editorial endorsing very limited incentives for organ donors.

Postrel's crusade, for those who haven't been following it, got started when the former Reason magazine editor donated a kidney to Sally Satel (who says libertarians are all selfish?) and was a bit horrified with the process.

It's an important issue -- 6,000 people die each year on organ waiting lists.

The USA Today editorial highlights several ideas under consideration:

* Under a "futures" contract, the estate or family of an adult who agrees to donate organs might receive some financial remuneration, typically less than $10,000, for funeral and other expenses. Organs would go into the donor system, not be sold to individuals.

* LifeSharers is an existing network of 4,500 donors. Members agree to specify that when they die, priority in getting their organs should go to other members, also registered as donors.

* More controversial, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin allow tax deductions of up to $10,000 to compensate living donors for travel, expenses or lost income. This is legal because the money comes from the state. It also requires screening for psychological fitness.

These all sound good to me. And I'm sure there are even more creative ideas out there.

All that stands between people waiting for organs and a better chance at survival is getting over the cultural taboo that it's somehow wrong to compensate someone for an organ. By starting with non-monetary incentives (or indirect monetary incentives) like those above, we can at least get the ball rolling.