Iran can teach the world a thing or two about charity, and markets

While preparing for a final paper for my Organ Transplantation course, I came across this wonderful paragraph about the aptly-named “Iranian model” of organ allocation:

“Only one country, Iran, has eliminated the shortage of transplant organs—and only Iran has a working and legal payment system for organ donation. In this system, organs are not bought and sold at the bazaar. Patients who cannot be assigned a kidney from a deceased donor and who cannot find a related living donor may apply to the nonprofit, volunteer-run Dialysis and Transplant Patients Association (Datpa). Datpa identifies potential donors from a pool of applicants. Those donors are medically evaluated by transplant physicians, who have no connection to Datpa, in just the same way as are uncompensated donors. The government pays donors $1,200 and provides one year of limited health-insurance coverage. In addition, working through Datpa, kidney recipients pay donors between $2,300 and $4,500. Charitable organizations provide remuneration to donors for recipients who cannot afford to pay, thus demonstrating that Iran has something to teach the world about charity as well as about markets.” (Emphasis mine.)

This comes from an article published in January of 2010 at a time when anti-Iran hysteria was well beyond its infancy but nowhere near as visible as it is today.

Similar to the way an elementary school bully picks on others to deflect attention to his or her own insecurities, Israel’s attempts to paint Iran as an emblem of hate and dysfunction seems that much more ludicrous in light of this brilliant and completely patient-oriented organ allocation model.

Currently, over 100,000 Americans are on the transplant waiting list. Over 7,000 die annually without ever receiving an opportunity for a new organ, a second chance. The U.S. is among many countries struggling to bridge the disparity between organ availability and the growing demand for these organs. Coincidentally, Israel’s recent ‘no give, no take’ model is being considered to encourage more of the public to donate their organs.

Nevertheless, Iran’s model presents the ultimate success: guaranteed organ procurement and treatment for those who need it.



There is one comment

  1. Brian

    While this is a great idea and a model which should be built upon, there are some problems with the current system in Iran. Specifically, those donating kidneys tend to be poor and young. Often they are not fully aware of the consequences of giving up a kidney and are likely resorting to it out of desperation. This is obviously a better alternative to selling organs on the black market, but there are further considerations that need to be taken into account.
    Great post!

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