Sunday, October 16, 2016

Two papers on repugnance and payments for body parts

Here's an NBER paper by Nicola Lacetera, which includes this in the acknowledgments: "I dedicate this paper to the memory of my friend Julia Fletcher, whose life could have been longer if a bone marrow match were found for her."

Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts

Nicola Lacetera

NBER Working Paper No. 22673
Issued in September 2016
NBER Program(s):   HE      PE 

Research shows that properly devised economic incentives increase the supply of blood without hampering its safety; similar effects may be expected also for other body parts such as bone marrow and organs. These positive effects alone, however, do not necessarily justify the introduction of payments for supplying body parts; these activities concern contested commodities or repugnant transactions, i.e. societies may want to prevent certain ways to regulate a transaction even if they increased supply, because of ethical concerns. When transactions concern contested commodities, therefore, societies often face trade-offs between the efficiency-enhancing effects of trades mediated by a monetary price, and the moral opposition to the provision of these payments. In this essay, I first describe and discuss the current debate on the role of moral repugnance in controversial markets, with a focus on markets for organs, tissues, blood and plasma. I then report on recent studies focused on understanding the trade-offs that individuals face when forming their opinions about how a society should organize certain transactions.


And here's another, by Julio J. Elias, Nicola Lacetera, and Mario Macis

Efficiency-Morality Trade-Offs in Repugnant Transactions: A Choice Experiment

Julio J. EliasNicola LaceteraMario Macis

NBER Working Paper No. 22632
Issued in September 2016
NBER Program(s):   HE   LE   PE 
Societies prohibit many transactions considered morally repugnant, although potentially efficiency-enhancing. We conducted an online choice experiment to characterize preferences for the morality and efficiency of payments to kidney donors. Preferences were heterogeneous, ranging from deontological to strongly consequentialist; the median respondent would support payments by a public agency if they increased the annual kidney supply by six percentage points, and private transactions for a thirty percentage-point increase. Fairness concerns drive this difference. Our findings suggest that cost-benefit considerations affect the acceptance of morally controversial transactions, and imply that trial studies of the effects of payments would inform the public debate.

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