Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mohammad Akbarpour on Iran's kidney market

My colleague Mohammad Akbarpour at Stanford GSB is featured in their newsletter.  

He thinks about kidney transplantation from a number of different's a snippet.

Is It Ever OK to Sell (or Buy) a Kidney?

"Iran’s paid kidney market emerged after the country’s revolution at the end of the 1970s. In the early ’80s, foreign sanctions against the government inhibited its ability to get dialysis machinery. The number of Iranians needing a kidney transplant, however, kept increasing, so in 1988 the government organized a system that regulated and funded kidney transplantation. Their system included compensation for donors.
Officials euphemistically described the money given to each donor as a “gift,” says economist Mohammad Akbarpour, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who, has been working with several colleagues to study Iran’s market and unpaid kidney exchange markets globally. “They were paying for it, but using different words,” says Akbarpour. The system worked so well that the kidney transplant wait list in Iran was nearly eliminated by 1999.
“We have this discussion in the West about what would happen if you have a paid market for kidneys,” says Akbarpour. “The expectation has been that poor people will be selling their kidneys to rich people. But the debate has been largely based on speculations, as opposed to evidence.”
Akbarpour looked at five years’ worth of data about kidney sales and transplantation in the country, and his preliminary findings show that the average wealth of those buying kidneys is almost exactly the same as the average wealth of Iranians. Most of the payment for each transplant comes from the patient, not the government.
“It’s not just rich people who can buy a kidney in Iran,” he says. “Even poor people find the money for it, because it’s so valuable. There are also charities they can tap.”
But one suspected consequence of a cash market for kidneys did turn out to be true: Poor people sell kidneys far more than any other economic group. In Iran, most kidneys come from those whose incomes are in the bottom 25% of earners."

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