Researchers found that paying kidney donors can help boost organ donation rates in the United States. Their findings suggest the need for modifying current regulations and laws prohibiting such incentives that could potentially help save thousands of lives.

In the study, researchers called registered American voters in June 2014 and asked if they were willing to participate in the survey. Almost 17,000 Americans said yes.

The researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine used data from 1,011 people who are representative of the entire U.S. population in the study. First, they collected some demographic information. Without mentioning the chance of a compensation, they were asked if they were willing to become living kidney donors.

The participants were then segregated into three main categories. The first group (68 percent) were those willing to donate even to strangers. The second group (23 percent) were those willing to donate to a restricted group that involved family and friends.

The last group (9 percent) were those not willing to become living kidney donors. The researchers found very little difference in terms of employment status, gender and age across the three groups.

In the second round of questioning, the researchers asked the participants to answer the same question but mentioned they could receive a $50,000 compensation for becoming living kidney donors.

Sixty-three percent of those in the first group said the compensation will make them more likely to push through with their decision. About 60 percent of those in the second group said they were more likely to donate given the compensation as a possibility. As for the third group, those unwilling to become living kidney donors, 26 percent said they would reconsider because of the compensation.

The research team noted that there were some people who became reluctant in donating when the compensation was mentioned. In the first group, 8 percent said they would be less likely to donate. In the second group, 9 percent said the same while 18 percent in the third group had the same reaction.

"Most U.S. voters view living kidney donation positively, and most would be motivated toward donor nephrectomy if offered a payment of $50,000," write researcher Thomas G. Peters and his colleagues in the research published on March 23 in the JAMA Surgery journal.

Since registered U.S. voters favor compensation and because thousands of patients could potentially be saved if compensation boosts kidney donation rates, the current regulations and laws that prohibit such compensation should be modified. This will allow pilot studies on how financial incentives can increase the number of living kidney donors.

Photo: Nick Farnhill | Flickr

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