Transplanting Kidneys in Tehran
By Amy Willis
There’s only one place in the world where individuals can be financially compensated for donating a kidney- Iran. EconTalk host Russ Roberts chatted with New York Times writer Tina Rosenberg, as a follow-up to an earlier episode on matching markets with Nobel laureate Alvin Roth.
We’d like to hear your reactions on this controversial topic. Use the prompts below to start a conversation offline, and share your thoughts in the Comments to continue our conversation online.
1. Rosenberg describes the process in Iran whereby a non-governmental organization coordinates donors and recipients. Of this process, she says, “You don’t want brokers in the middle who are going to take a cut or who have a financial incentive.” Go back and listen to this EconTalk episode from 2008 with Mike Munger on the economics of middlemen. If kidney sales were legal in the United States, do you think a for-profit broker would do a better or worse job than a non-profit broker?2. The sharing economy has been the subject of many recent EconTalk episodes, as well as of a recent feature article. In this conversation, Roberts calls the Iranian kidney market the “ultimate example of the sharing economy.” How appropriate is this analogy?
3. Toward the end of the conversation, Roberts mentions this clip from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, a farcical account of a liver transplant. Have a look at the clip, then discuss how this clip illustrates some of the problems (and potential problems) faced in Iran’s kidney market.