This week, Alexander Berger will donate one of his kidneys to a stranger. He'll help save a life, but the 21-year-old knows everyone is not as altruistic as he is, so in a New York Times op-ed printed Tuesday, he suggested selling kidneys should be made legal.
"I recognize the worry but I think the benefits are reallly, really large," Berger said. "If we let people do it for nothing, I don't see why they can't do it for money."
According to the federal government there are nearly 88,000 patients on the list for a kidney. The latest statistics indicate fewer than 17,000 transplants are performed each year, which means thousands die waiting.
"What we have is not a good solution; what we have now is a crisis and we really need to do something to solve it," Berger said.
Berger's suggestion of selling kidneys for $50,000 was a topic of debate among callers to Brian Copeland on KGO Radio. Callers were mixed on if they thought it was a good idea.
Congress banned financial incentives for kidney donations in 1984. Dr. William Andereck, a medical ethicist at California Pacific Medical Center, opposes selling kidneys on a moral basis.
"Out of respect for the dignity of the human body, the human experience, the organs which that human body produces will be given essentially the same rights," Andereck said.
He and other critics also think lifting the ban would exploit the poor, who would sell to the rich. Berger believes a well-regulated system could handle that challenge.