Could Tax Incentives Encourage More Living Organ Donation?

A legislator in New Jersey has nobly proposed offering tax credits to organ donors but the initiative has been met with immediate opposition from groups who believe that such a measure would actually violate federal law.

The National Organ Transplant Act actually makes it illegal for hospitals to pay for organs (isn’t that why they are called “organ donors”?) but tax credits or tax deductions are available in 19 states for verifiable, unreimbursed expenses (from the patient) related to the donation of living organs.  Troy Zimmerman, of the National Kidney Foundation, goes on to say that the benefit can also include remittance for lost wages, in some states.

The proposal is to offer a simple $1,000 income tax credit for donating a living organ or up to $100 in tax credits for donating blood, blood platelets, or blood plasma.

At least some of the opposition this bill faces is well-directed.  Donate Life America president David Fleming, for example, advises that the bill falls into a somewhat broad category of “well-intentioned legislatures looking to do something to increase the number of donors.”

He goes on to express concern that tax breaks could become a kind of bargaining chip that would entice, perhaps, families of dead donors or to motivate donors from one state to donate in a different state just to get the benefit. Or, more grossly, he worries this could evolve to prey on poor people (who will donate out of monetary need) or even create a black market for organs.

But Fleming says that the the payout may not even be enough to cover the expenses of the donor.

Perhaps what’s more interesting, the World Health Organization estimates that upwards of 80 percent of the nearly 120,000 organs transplanted around the globe, in 2014, were actually illegal. Unfortunately, the WHO does not have any number more precise than this; obviously because the estimate likely includes organs sold on the black market.

Hard data from the United States National Kidney Foundation found that more than 19,000 people had received kidney transplants in America, last year.  5,628 of these were actually from a living donor. Currently, there are around 120,000 people in the United States who are waiting for an organ donation (as tallied by Donate Life America).

Surprisingly, it was a New Jersey majority Senator who made the proposal.  Senator Gerald Cardinale admits he got the idea for this bill when witnessed the benefits of living organ donation first hand—one friend lived after receiving a transplant while another died still waiting for one.  He simple relays: “It’s important to get something done that encourages the activity.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *