In 1984, federal legislation outlawing payment for human organs for transplantation was adopted after only cursory discussion of the underlying policy issues. More considered analysis suggests that this prohibition may be overly broad. It appears possible to design suitably regulated market-type approaches to the acquisition and allocation of cadaveric organs (and perhaps of organs from living donors as well) that will be neither unduly offensive to ethical sensibilities nor easily abused and that may yield significant improvements over the existing system of organ procurement, which presents important ethical and practical problems of its own. Moreover, whatever ultimate judgment we reach concerning the merits of markets for transplantable organs, analysis of the sources of the initial moral resistance to the commercialization that lies behind measures such as the 1984 legislation offers insights into the respective roles of market and nonmarket institutions in general.

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