Incentivized Altruism

Only one in ten Israeli adults is an organ donor and the country is addressing the situation with an innovative new policy. Organ donors and their close relatives will now receive priority if they require a transplant. Jacob Lavee of the Sheba Medical Center said the new policy “provides an incentive for individuals to agree to help each other.” The policy will be widely publicized and will take effect in January 2011. (HT: Marginal Revolution) [%comments]


This makes so much sense, it should be in place everywhere. If you're a registered organ donor then you get put ahead of all the non-organ donors on the transplant list.

It's a pretty straightforward hypocrisy test, if you don't think organ donation is a good idea, you shouldn't get to add an "*except if I'm on the receiving end" disclaimer. Also, if you end up receiving an organ, you should automatically have to consent to being an organ donor in the future.

I think children should be exempt until they get their driver's license (at least here in the US where that's the first time anyone usually makes this choice), but other than that it sounds like a great idea.


is it kosher?!- i.e. i wonder about the ethics- ill presume the talmud has nothing to say on the matter


I like it. No money exchanges hands. There doesn't seem to be a way to exploit it. They only way to profit from it is when you or a loved one needs an organ.

Blood donations used to be similar, at least here in NJ. But they seem to have done away with it.

Jonathan Baird

Wow. Go Israel! Add the ability for donors to get paid, and it would be the more efficient system possible.

Katie Cunningham

A good idea, but what about those that can't donate for some reason? I'm not even talking about the inability to donate for religious reasons: some conditions make it impossible to donate one's organs.


Seems like the old rabbinical rulings on when death occurs and desecration of the body both before and after death would make this tricky for traditional religious Jews.

So before this rule, only the less-religious Jews (and other faiths) would donate, but everyone would accept transplants, so all the benefit went one way. This rule could even things out a bit.

Even religious Jews have a duty to save lives, though, and maybe this will encourage them to see organ donation as a mitzvah rather than a desecration.

Eric M. Jones

There are decisions like this that make great sense for society at large, and make no sense at all to the individual.

Another example is mammograms. Society recommends fewer and later, but an individual's best choice would get them earlier and more often.

Another example is gun ownership. Society recommends against it. But the individual is better served with one than without one.

So anyway, I am against donating my organs, but I'm sure happy to have you donate yours.


I agree that it makes sense, but what happens when people argue that they are not an organ donor because of their religious beliefs? Personally I'd say "tough luck" to those making that argument, but constitutionally there might be some serious debate there.

Jonathan Baird

Shouldn't one religiously opposed to donating organs also be religiously opposed to receiving them? This shouldn't harm them in any way. If your religious system prevents you from donating but not receiving... tough, get a better religion.

Kevin H

Sounds pretty good. I'm not sure exactly how the law is handled, but hopefully there's a lag time, so you need to be on the donor list for 2 years or something before you get the benefits to prevent people from signing up the day they learn the need an organ.

My friend came up with a related idea (half in jest, as is his M.O.) that we should make everyone sign something today stating if they believe in stem cell research, and then give future stem cell based treatments only to those who support it now.

Another David

I would support this in any country other than Israel. But the fact of the matter is that Judaism forbids organ transplant (I decided to register as a donor anyway). I don't think that the Jewish homeland should be offering incentives to those who break the laws that bind the people together. It would be like subsidizing non-kosher food.

Imagine if in the US non-Christians were given a free pass at drunk driving check points on Christmas...


#5 and #8 - the donor status comes in when there is a tie in other considerations, that is, the possible recipients have about the same need, distance, age, etc. That works for me.

Neil (SM)

#5 >> "...some conditions make it impossible to donate one's organs."

But those conditions don't prevent someone from being *listed* as an Organ Donor. When that person actually dies, it's up to someone else to disqualify them.

Neil (SM)

#11 If someone's religion forbids organ transplant, than what does he care if he doesn't get first priority to receive an organ transplant?


I complete agree with this law, however I feel that it does not go far enough. If I were the law-maker for our country, I would say that anybody who refuses to be an organ donor is completely prohibited from receiving any kind of transplant.

I completely understand #7's comment, and he is basically explaining why there should be these kinds of laws in place. Not donating an organ might cause somebody slight displeasure (the thought of knowing that their body will be ripped open the second they die), but cause somebody else extreme good (living longer). However, because the stupid hippies in Congress don't want to do what is necessary, they let the ones who choose to exercise their right to refuse their organs profit, while they laugh at those who are the Good Samaritans.

Personally, I'm an organ donor. Mainly because I see it is minimal harm to myself that could help somebody else out. I would just hate for myself or a loved one to be passed over for somebody who is not moving along the process.


David Chowes, New York City

Given my perception of human nature we usually care only
about ourselves. Then family and close friends and in quickly decending order the remainder of people.

So, this seems to me to be a pragmatic solution which has the potential to save lives.

A viable argument against this idea is that transplant volunteers would be disproportionatly consist of the poor and desparate.

My conclusion: even with my reservation, my response is yes!


Is it still altruism if it's incentivized?

Also, yes to this! And donor status should be counted from the registration period before your condition was diagnosed - keep people from last minute changes to game the system.

Chris Colenso-Dunne

I'm not a registered organ donor because I don't want my organs to be donated to whoever most needs them.

Rather, I want my organs to be donated to those who most deserve them.

Who decides the deserving? In the case of my organs, I do.

So, I don't want my organs going to smokers, to alcoholics or other drug addicts, to those with a criminal record, to anyone who belongs to a religious group or is a republican.

Finally, if one of my own should fail, I am not interested in receiving an organ - whether from one of my banned groups or from anyone else.

Miles Jacob

I choose NOT to be a donor precisely because I do not agree with the system of prioritization of whose lives are more worth saving, and adding more moral criteria to that system only makes it less likely I would want to become a donor.

Tom Landgraf

I support this policy because it requires people to make a decision about organ donation. The default scenario - relying on a pool of altruistic donors (and their survivors who often override the deceased's organ donation wishes) - has give us the current situation where demand far exceeds supply.

The best way to ration a limited supply of organs is to prioritize willing donors and their immediate families at the top of the list.

I suggest an addition to this policy: people who abuse their bodies with illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc should not be allowed to donate their organs.