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Financial compensation for organ donors

Harbell, Jack W.; Mathur, Amit K.

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: April 2019 - Volume 24 - Issue 2 - p 182–187
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0000000000000617

Purpose of review With an increasing demand for donor organs, strategies to increase the number of available donor organs have become more focused. Compensating donors for donation is one strategy proposed to increase the availability of organs for transplant. This has been implemented in several systems internationally, but debate continues in the United States with respect to appropriate strategies. The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) currently prohibits the transfer of any human organ ‘for valuable consideration’ for transplantation, but allows for the removal of financial disincentives.

Recent findings Several proposals currently exist for compensating patients for living donation. Recent data have focused on studying and creating mechanisms for reimbursement of costs incurred as part of the donation process, which is related to the removal of disincentives to living donation. Others have advocated for the provision of actual incentives to patients for the act of donating, in an attempt to further expand living donation. The current debate focuses on what measures can reasonably be taken to increase donation, and whether additional incentives will encourage more donation or reduce the motivation for altruistic donation.

Summary Currently, the transplant community broadly supports the removal of disincentives for living donors, including reimbursement of expenses for travel, housing and lost wages incurred during evaluation, surgery and after care. Others have advocated for financial incentives to further increase the number of donor organs available for transplant. Although the removal of disincentives is currently allowed under the existing legal structure of NOTA, providing financial incentives for living donation would require further evaluation of the economics, law, ethics and public readiness for a significant policy shift.

Division of Transplant Surgery, Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Correspondence to Amit K. Mathur, MD, MS, Consultant, Division of Transplant Surgery, Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Associate Professor of Surgery, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, 5777 East Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ 85054, USA. Tel: +1 480 342 1010; fax: +1 480 342 2324; e-mail:

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