Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Advertised: I Need an Organ

You cannot sell your organs in the United States. You can only donate them. This restriction is essentially a price ceiling set at 0 and it creates a shortage of organs. Since the market cannot clear via the price system, people find ways to get around the price restrictions. One man in Houston bought billboards to advertise his need for a new liver. A quote from the article:

“… a Houston man, Todd Krampitz, bought a pair of billboards and gave a series of media interviews soliciting a liver donor. It worked: Someone died, and the person’s family had heard about Krampitz and opted to donate directly to him.”

Mr. Krampitz is not the only one. At the end of the article, we learn about other billboards across the country and we learn about websites advertising for livers.

Who gets paid? The families who shared their loved-one’s organ? Nope. The billboard owners and the people who sold the rights to the web domain names receive the income.

This is just another unintended consequence of the restriction.

Instead of doing the right thing and allowing the sale of organs to those who need them, activists, acting on ethical grounds, will likely push for a ban on advertising for an organ. All this will do is cause people to find another way to get around the restrictions - and people will continue to needlessly die.