Let’s Hope This Is Not the Best Organ-Donor Incentive Proposed This Year

Congress has taken note of the shortage of donated organs, and has proposed an incentive to increase donation: a commemorative medal to honor organ donors. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution sums it up thusly: “Millions for medals but not a cent for compensation.”

I am sure the congressmen and senators mean well, and we here at Freakonomics are firm believers that not all incentives need be financial to work, but I’m not sure this proposal passes even the laugh test. Just ask yourself: if you are on the fence about donating an organ, does the thought of a commemorative medal sway your opinion at all?

I wouldn’t think so. I’m sure the first handful of donors would receive a lot of coverage and positive attention, but after the novelty wears off, I am guessing that the reward of a medal would seem far too slight to significantly increase donations.

This also reminds me of what I call “trophy inflation,” whereby every kid in every sports class in America now receives a “participation” trophy. With a shelf full of participation trophies, the ones you get for actually winning something don’t seem so special.


chadathom

A similar proposal comes up in the House and/or Senate nearly every year (several times by Frist), but never gets much serious attention. See "Gift of Life Congressional Medal Act of (insert year)".

mongolian

I have to admit to being slightly confused. I had the impression that a number of organ donors no longer had the need for their donated parts, or any other parts, to put it delicately. To whom would these medals go, then, in those situations? If I were considering organ donation, the prospect of bestowing a commemorative medal on my bereaved next-of-kin is even less of an incentive than the reward of receiving one myself.

RandyfromCanada

usually people who donate organs do it for reasons other than money , wonder what the percentages would be , family members , friends , all do it because they want to help someone , not sure the lure of a medal would be all that , besides if you want a medal that bad just buy it on e-bay -thats the AMERICAN way !

Aussie Bob

At least it's not a financial reward - I wonder what sort of perverse incentive a financial reward would result in?

BlueNumber2

What about changing the method of signing up for organ donation on our driver's licenses from opt-in to opt-out?

rcbizzile

mongolian-

I think that the medal would be used as a reward for organs you can live without, i.e. kidneys (are there others? bone marrow maybe?), but I agree a medal seems to give little comfort to grieving family members

egretman

Cure diabetes and you won't need the stupid medals.

(I would say cure obesity, but that seems to be impossible)

phalkon

In some ways this seems to parallel the non-monetary reward for voting - the "I Voted" sticker that people wear on election day. Of course, nobody would say they decided to vote just so they could get a cheap plastic sticker, but I do think they serve to remind others that it's election day. And it seems to me that some people take pride in showing off that they voted.

Of course, few people are likely to see the medals given to organ donors. Perhaps a free bumper sticker or special license plate when you sign up would be more effective.

SuperRob

On the devaluation of awards ... I think that the "participation trophies" don't necessarily diminish all of the other awards, just the ones that aren't for winning. There used to be some merit in being second-best, but once the schools started telling kids that they were all winners, it just made it all the more clear who the REAL winners were.

frankenduf

egretman- it's hypertension that blows the kidneys out
doesn't anyone find more fulfilling the laud of our peers (at the highest level) rather than vulgar cash? I'd take the medal any day- I'm with RandyfromTheothernorthamericancountry- people give out of love/connection rather than da benjamins

andrew85

Hopefully the donor or his/her survivor's can refuse the medal, which, one would hope, would be fully recyclable

egretman

it's hypertension that blows the kidneys out

That's just one symptom of diabetes, frankenduf. Hypertension is twice as likely in those with diabetes.

I say again. Cure diabetes and there will be enough donors for the other causes of organ loss.

Dave Undis

Here's a better (and already legal) organ-donor incentive -- if you agree to donate your organs after you die, you'll be moved up the waiting list if you ever need a transplant to live.

This incentive is available at www.lifesharers.org

ManipulationNation

I think the proposal is worth a three-month test and I bet a lot more people would sign up during that period of time than normally would. People do lots of things that don't make logical sense: We buy cars to build our egos; we buy lottery tickets because we "feel" like we're going to win; we buy lots of products that we hardly ever use. Some ballplayers desperately want to enter their sport's Hall of Fame, even though it doesn't offer monetary value most of the time. The military must have some evidence by now that medals provide value.

Karen

While I wholeheartedly applaud organ
donors (I'm registered myself), I think
the idea of giving donors a prize is
not the answer.

It's sad that in America, we can't find
enough folks to give a little of themselves
even after they are dead and gone. You can't
use it, why waste it? We have no problem dumping old junk off at the Goodwill, how hard is checking a box to save lives?

As of a few minutes ago, there were 97,171
people on a waiting list for an organ transplant.

The population of the U.S. as of June 22, 2007
is about 302,159,330.

19 people will die today because there were insufficient organs, yet according to statistics, 6,744 people die each day. Of those six thousand and some, if only 19 of them had signed up for organ donation, the other 19 lives could have been saved.

Just a quick reminder to folks who may have forgotten to put this on their 'to do' list. Every single day in America, organs which could have saved a life are buried, cremated and lost, a vast majority for no logical reason at all.

Contrary to silly myths and rumors spread over the years, donation upon passing is terribly easy, you won't feel a thing and it won't cost you a single penny. Just think, you could save as many as 50 people!

Get the facts about organ donation,
not the nonsense:
[http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organ-donation/FL00077]

Fill out the card, notify the department of motor vehicles in your area and let your family know. Paper clip your donor card to your driver's license and be done with it.

Besides, in some states you get a
cute little heart on your driver's license. :-)

Karen Marie

Read more...

chadathom

A similar proposal comes up in the House and/or Senate nearly every year (several times by Frist), but never gets much serious attention. See "Gift of Life Congressional Medal Act of (insert year)".

mongolian

I have to admit to being slightly confused. I had the impression that a number of organ donors no longer had the need for their donated parts, or any other parts, to put it delicately. To whom would these medals go, then, in those situations? If I were considering organ donation, the prospect of bestowing a commemorative medal on my bereaved next-of-kin is even less of an incentive than the reward of receiving one myself.

RandyfromCanada

usually people who donate organs do it for reasons other than money , wonder what the percentages would be , family members , friends , all do it because they want to help someone , not sure the lure of a medal would be all that , besides if you want a medal that bad just buy it on e-bay -thats the AMERICAN way !

Aussie Bob

At least it's not a financial reward - I wonder what sort of perverse incentive a financial reward would result in?

BlueNumber2

What about changing the method of signing up for organ donation on our driver's licenses from opt-in to opt-out?