Cohen Lectures at Georgetown on Economics of Organ Donation

Professor Lloyd Cohen presented a lecture at Georgetown University on October 18 on a market for human organs , using a whiteboard to draw supply and demand curves to illustrate the benefits of a market for human body parts. 

Cohen, who has promoted the idea of such a market for over two decades, presented what he said was a simple basic premise: People are more likely to give you what you want if they are being paid than if they are not.

Cohen was critical of the current system of organ donation in which the decision to donate body parts is left up to someone other than the person donating, as well as of the current system of organ allocation, which he said "does not fit some great Platonic ideal."

Under Cohen's plan, people could opt into a program in which they would be paid $5,000 for each vital organ donated after their death, with the payment going either to their estate or to a named beneficiary.

"You basically sign up for a contingent life insurance plan of what could be up to $30,000," he said.

The event was co-sponsored by Hoyas for Liberty, Healthcare Executives of Georgetown University, and the Georgetown University Lecture Fund.

Cohen Talks Organ Econ.,, October 20, 2010. By Upasana Kaku.

"Cohen also responded to many common criticisms of a market for organs, including the oft-cited perception that poverty would coerce some into selling their organs. But, he said, in his system, organs can only be harvested after death.

“'Dead people are neither rich nor poor. They are simply dead.'

"Cohen didn’t take issue with many who find the idea of an organ market shallow.

“'It is shallow,' he said. 'Economics is a shallow discipline.'

"But he maintains that the principles of economics still can and should be applied to organs."