A majority of Americans oppose legalizing the sale of human organs for transplant purposes, and nearly half of U.S. residents consider such sales to be wrong, according to an Exclusive Point Taken-Marist Poll. While a plurality of Americans think legalization of this process would help regulate the sale of human organs, notable concern about a black market exists.
55% of Americans do not think the sale of human organs for transplant purposes should be legal. 33% support such action. Women, 62%, are more likely than men, 48%, to oppose legalizing the sale of human organs for transplants. Millennials, 42%, are more likely than older Americans to favor the legalization of these transactions. Members of Gen X, 24%, are the least likely to support legalization.
In assessing the moral dimension of this debate, 49% of U.S. residents believe it is wrong for someone to sell their organs, such as a kidney, to a transplant patient who can afford to pay the price. Again, gender and generational differences are present. Women, 58%, are more likely than men, 40%, to consider it wrong to sell human organs to transplant patients. Generationally, Millennials, 52%, are more likely than other generations to think receiving money for one’s organs is acceptable.
What effect would legalizing the sale of human organs have? A plurality of Americans, 47%, including 30% who are against permitting these transactions, assert that legalizing the sale of human organs would provide regulations and minimize the risks. But, more than four in ten Americans, 41%, say it would lead to a black market and endanger lives. Men, 53%, are more inclined than women, 41%, to perceive the positive benefit of legalizing the sale of human organs.
When only one organ is available and several patients need that organ for survival, 56% of Americans say the best way to decide who should be the beneficiary is to give it to the patient who has been waiting the longest. 51% of men, compared with 62% of women, say those highest on the waiting list should receive the available organ. Of all the generations, Gen X, 69%, is the most likely to support this method of selection.
A majority of Americans, 56%, report the worst way to decide to whom the organ should go is to assign it through auction and provide it to the person who can pay the most for it. Those who earn $50,000 or more annually, 64%, are more likely than those who make less, 50%, to have this view. Members of the Silent-Greatest generation, 38%, are the least likely to consider bidding to be the worst method and are more than twice as likely as any other generation to say using the waiting list is the worst way to select a transplant recipient.
On the personal level, most Americans, 81%, report they would not be likely to sell one of their kidneys. Residents who make less than $50,000 a year, 24%, are twice as likely as those who earn more, 12%, to say they would sell a kidney. Millennials, 27%, are more likely than older generations to say the same.
A majority of Americans, 55%, say they would not allow their heirs to sell their organs after death although members of the Silent-Greatest generation divide, 47% to 47%.
This survey of 516 adults was conducted May 24th and May 25th, 2016 by The Marist Poll sponsored and funded in partnership with WGBH’s Point Taken. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the contiguous United States were contacted on landline or mobile numbers and interviewed in English by telephone using live interviewers. Results are statistically significant within ±4.3 percentage points. The error margin was not adjusted for sample weights and increases for cross-tabulations.