Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another Downside to Quantity Restrictions on Organs

Economist Alex Tabarrok discusses a further danger of the ban on organ sales: lack of experience in transplants. He argues that due to the shortage of organs, many hospitals only do a few transaplants a year and therefore are more likely to make mistakes due to the inexperience and lack of practice.
Medicare requires that transplant centers perform 12 transplants a year to be certified but many programs are in violation of that standard with little consequence. Medicare is even thinking of reducing the standard from 12 per year to 9 in 30 months. As one specialist says "I wouldn't take my car to be serviced by someone who repaired nine cars over the past three years. Would anyone do that?"
He references an article and graph in the Washington Post that discusses the fact that many hospitals are currently falling short of this mark.

This post is timely since you guys did a paper on the possibility of the organ market just a few weeks ago and adds an argument that I had not heard before.

(Source: Marginal Revolution)


Anonymous said...

i completely agree with this ideal, as experience is an extreme benefit in any organized specialization. Many a times when people are hiring, they will ask for "5 years of experience" or so because experience creates wisdom and understanding of a subject matter. Also, experience adds maturity to the workers in any field. Many a times older folks are considered "wise" because of their overall life experience. If you have experience, you may understand more of the trials and tribulations of the job: what seems to work and what seems to fail. This is an extremely interesting argument, which seems to be implicit in the organ donation world--it doesnt deal with monetary exchanges or the sanctity of the body, rather the danger or threat the doctors could have on the patient or reciever.

Anonymous said...

Alena brings up a good point that experience is a necessity is all jobs and even more so in the medical professions whose sole purpose is to save lives. Tabarrok points out that because of the price ceiling of $0 on human organs, the extreme scarcity of organs for transplant makes them very valuable to the transplant centers. Thus, Tabarrok explains, there is an abundance of transplant centers, all seeking the high profits associated with organ transplant, but each center only performs a low number of transplant surgeries. I think that Medicare’s requirement of 12 transplants per year in order to be accredited as an official transplant center is too low. I think it would be a huge mistake to further decrease this number because organ transplants are by nature very risky operations and need no further perils from lack of experience. I also think that these centers should be monitored more carefully and that the regulations should be enforced accordingly. By making the transplant centers more reputable and by limiting the number of centers that can perform those operations, each center would be more successful in its surgeries and would be able to perform a greater number of surgeries more routinely. This is a very interesting argument as it brings up, as Alena said, a completely different aspect in the problems with the organ ban. Perhaps we should not so much be worrying about getting more organs available for transplant as we should make sure those transplants are done by experienced transplant teams because the primary goal of every organ “transaction” is to save a human life.

--Sarah O’Donohue

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sarah's many points. I think that one of the main problems holding back the transplant teams is the lack of organs. It takes time to find the most qualified organ donor and the to figure out how who needs the organ the most, hence our paper on organ donors. The time spent trying to find these two takes away from the time performing the surgery. Since the surgeons are limited to the amount of organs they have available, then they can only perform a certain number of surgeries which causes more mistakes because of less practice.
-Danielle Lunetta