The180

Of cash and kidneys

A high profile plea for live organ donors put the issue of Canada's organ shortage back in the spotlight this week. We hear from a Canadian researcher who has studied what it would take to get more donations of the most-needed organs: kidneys. She explains why governments should try paying donors.
A patient is prepared for surgery to receive a donated kidney. The health dangers for kidney donors is believed to be low. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)
Listen9:30

This week, after making a public plea for living donors, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk received a liver transplant. 

The plea had some people wondering if it's fair for a prominent person to put out the call for donors, when the average person may not have as much clout. 

No matter where you stand on this story, the fact is there are always more people needing organs than there are organs available. 

Lianne Barnieh, University of Calgary researcher, spends her time trying to figure out how to fix that, especially when it comes to kidneys. She says she has a better idea: get the public system to pay people to donate. 

Barnieh co-authored a report that found the Canadian health system would benefit by paying $10,000 per kidney. She says it would increase the number of donors, and be more efficient than keeping patients on dialysis. 

But Barnieh acknowledges that paying for organs is a touchy issue-- and says, while she wishes some health system would put her idea to the test, she knows the public may not be ready for such a change. 

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