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]


what a brilliant idea


As an Israeli with an eye on the Ogran donation debate, something even more interesting came to mind. Today, it was published that a new application will allow users to sign-up for the donor community using their iPhone. Here's a link to the *Hebrew* atricle....,7340,L-3824415,00.html

Dave Undis

In the United States, registered organ donors can get preferred access to donated organs by joining an organ donor network named LifeSharers.

If you agree to offer your organs first to other LifeSharers members, you'll get preferred access to the organs of every other member of the network. As the LifeSharers network expands, your chances of getting an organ if you ever need one keep going up -- if you are a member. LifeSharers already has over 13,000 members.

Giving organs first to organ donors creates an incentive for non-donors to become donors. This increases the supply of organs and saves more lives. Saving the maximum number of lives should be the primary goal of our organ donation/transplantation system.

Giving organs first to organ donors also makes the system fairer. People who aren't willing to donate their own organs should go to the back of the transplant waiting list as long as there is an organ shortage.

If you want to donate your organs to other organ donors, you can join LifeSharers at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. Membership is free. There is no age limit. No one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.



Something needs to be done to improve donor levels - but it is a mine field.

Can't pay for human parts - morally wrong
Can't use an opt-out stand point (my personal favourite) - what about the civil rights?

This is a good middle ground for upping the incentive, I fully support this as too many people have the attitude that they want the security of receiving blood/organs if they need them but are put off donating for what ever reason.

I'm almost with Zach on this one - you've got to pay to play


This is such an ingenious plan that I wonder why it hasn't been adopted earlier in other countries...

Possible negative side-effects from such a policy:
-People who have a history of having to need organ transplants will donate(since they are the most likely to benefit from this policy)
-Generally already unhealthy people may donate, which may lower the "quality" of donated organs
-Wealthy people may manipulate medical records by paying off poorer people to donate their organs and have that transaction listed as if they were the donors (wild specualation, I know).

Despite possible side-effects, I still think this is a brilliant plan. So much good can come from this if properly enforced


"Incentivized altruism" is an oxymoron. Altruism is the unselfish desire to help others. Getting a collateral benefit from doing it removes the altruism. This is perverse.

Pete Forde

@hmmm....: Altruism is charity when you know you'll be recognized, while selflessness is giving without expecting anything in return.

Altruism is responsible for many acts of good in the world, but the folks behind these acts have come to expect public recognition ranging from verbal thanks to public monuments in their name.

So, this is altruism in the extreme sense.

David Barg

The Orthodox Jewish objections to organ donation are not necessarily as clear cut as presented. There are various Rabinic opinions on the matter. In any case, Israel often has a need to pick a path toward policy in the face of religious strictures, usually compromise and sensitivity rules. The beautiful thing here is that as in medical research and its generous social activism, Israel once again leads the world.

Mike McNamara

#8> "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."

Not entirely true -- for example, an HIV+ person cannot be listed as an organ donor.

(Of course, in this case, most often HIV+ people aren't given priority on such lists because it's still considered a "waste" to give them a necessary organ, but that's another discussion for another time...)

Walt French

I'm surprised that a practice in Israel - a theocracy where commenters above say believers should not donate organs - gets dozens of favorable comments in the US, where the dominant ethical beliefs, as interpreted by Ethics Panels, seems to favor "judge not, lest ye be judged."

Ignoring these glaring inconsistencies seems calculated to generate blaring irrelevancies.


So the orthodox are entitled to receive a donation but forbidden to donate? How convenient. Let the self-righteous rot at the end of the line. I'd rather donate my organs to a cat.


Well, keep in mind, the decision of being or organ donor or not is done when you're a teenager (or whenever you get your driver's license). When I was 17, I got my driver's license and I checked off the box that said that I would like to be an organ donor.

A new system that they could put into place would require a new licensee to check off organ donor in order to get the right to receive organs. Additionally, if you did it when you first could, you would forever have more priority for donations. Those who change their minds, and decide to enter into the system and donate later would receive lesser priority for transplants. Obviously prior to donation the quality of the organs would be tested and if they weren't up to snuff they would be discarded (or possibly given to the people who didn't sign up). Additionally, you could possibly give the worse organs to the people lower in the priority list who wouldn't get it otherwise (with their signed consent).

I think that system would be fair, and cut down on people who knew that they were sick suddenly buying into the system to receive the benefit.


I have a cousin who has ALS, and stem cells are going to be the key to his cure. We follow religion too, but I don't see the harm in taking benefit of new discoveries. Medical science is booming only because people need it and it is high time fundamentalists should change their stand.

K Sheridan

This is the first of two posts - this one will address issues of eligibility, the second will address religious restrictions.

First, alcoholics and drug addicts may find themselves in a pickle if they are ever in need of organs. Hospitals may refuse requests for inclusion on a transplant list because of drug or alcohol use. For example, most (if not all) transplant hospitals will require proof of extended sobriety if a patient's liver failure (and thus their need for a transplant) is attributed to alcohol abuse.

On a more personal note, I was shocked by the last two paragraphs of Mr. Colenso-Dunne's comment. Organ donation is a medical procedure. The idea that because someone is Republican or religious that their organs are medically beneath you ridiculous, and the idea that just because someone is Republican or religious does not mean that your organs are more than they medically deserve similarly preposterous and obscenely selfish.


K Sheridan

Second post, on religious issues. I've chosen to focus on Judaism, since the original post was about a new policy enacted in Israel.

A rabbi associated with the Conservative movement led a seminar series on medical ethics not too long ago at a synagoge near my home, and one session was devoted to organ donation. He explained that answer Judaism can give about organ donation is that the preservation of life overrides every other mitzvoh, including the prohibition of the desecration of the body. In fact, the preservation of life is one of the three mitzvoh that are so important that they may come before the preservation of one's own life. Therefore, most branches and movements of Judaism not only allow but encourage organ donation, assuming that certain provisions (like the identification of a specific recipient and the verification of death for brain-dead donors, and the assurance of a low risk of death for live kidney/liver donors) are fulfilled.
Disclaimer: There are, of course, other interpretations, but my understanding is that the above perspective on organ donation is the most widely accepted view by far.



They sorted out that people that donate their organs get first go when they need organs. I understand this but there will be some problems to sorted out.Here's one.

Obviously children can't sign up until they are around 16 or get a drivers license. Imagine a 16 yr old driver (that has become a organ donor) takes a 16 yr old friend (that hasn't signed up to be a organ donor but plans to when she get her drivers license) to go for a drive. While driving there is an accident and both of the teenagers sustain heavy injuries. They are rushed to hospital where they both need the same organ transplant.If there is only one in the hospital. Who will get the organ?

The driver that is a organ donor

or the passenger that is not a organ donor but is a victim of a accident that the driver might have caused?