WASHINGTON -- More than 115,000 people in the United States wait today for a lifesaving organ transplant. That list, which keeps growing, once included Marion Barry, the former D.C. mayor and current D.C. councilman who received a kidney transplant in 2009.
On Tuesday, Barry (D-Ward 8) introduced a bill aimed to increase organ donations by offering D.C. residents a tax credit of up to $25,000 if they donate an organ to a recipient in need of a transplant.
According to The Washington Post, Barry's proposal, which was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), would make living donors eligible for the tax break if they gave "any human organ or composition of human tissue capable of being transplanted for life-saving or life-preserving purposes."
Barry's bill is not the first of its kind. Since 2004, at least 17 states have enacted tax policies that provide living donors with either a tax deduction or a tax credit for their organ donation. Several other states' legislatures have similar policies pending.
Tax breaks for organ donors are designed to increase organ donations by offsetting expenses that may deter viable donors, including the costs of travel, lodging, medical care and lost wages. A 2012 poll conducted by National Public Radio and Thomas Reuters Health found that 60 percent of Americans support giving financial incentives to organ donors to help cover these expenses.
Some experts question the effectiveness of proposals such as Barry’s, saying that tax breaks do little to actually increase the number of live organ donors. According to the American Journal of Transplantation, states that give tax breaks to organ donors do not show a statistically significant difference in the number of live donors compared to states that don't offer financial incentives.
But the National Kidney Foundation supports tax breaks for organ donors, having put the living donor tax credit on its list of recommended policies for the recently ended 112th Congress.