Why and how to compensate living organ donors: ethical implications of the new Australian scheme.
The Australian Federal Government has announced a two-year trial scheme to compensate living organ donors. The compensation will be the equivalent of six weeks paid leave at the rate of the national minimum wage. In this article I analyse the ethics of compensating living organ donors taking the Australian scheme as a reference point. Considering the long waiting lists for organ transplantations and the related costs on the healthcare system of treating patients waiting for an organ, the 1.3 million AUD the Australian Government has committed might represent a very worthwhile investment. I argue that a scheme like the Australian one is sufficiently well designed to avoid all the ethical problems traditionally associated with attaching a monetary value to the human body or to parts of it, namely commodification, inducement, exploitation, and equality issues. Therefore, I suggest that the Australian scheme, if cost-effective, should represent a model for other countries to follow. Nonetheless, although I endorse this scheme, I will also argue that this kind of scheme raises issues of justice in regard to the distribution of organs. Thus, I propose that other policies would be needed to supplement the scheme in order to guarantee not only a higher number of organs available, but also a fair distribution.