Grade 9-12

Should We Allow a Market for Transplant Organs?

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: September 1 2023,
Author: Jamie Wagner


Students will be able to:

  • compare and contrast three ethical frameworks to help eliminate the shortage of transplant organs.
  • critique two current methods to allocate kidneys (donation only or an open market)
  • select and support a particular method to allocate a scarce resource – such as kidneys – using the economic way of thinking together with the ethical frameworks discussed in this lesson.


In this lesson from the Ethics, Economics, and Social Issues curriculum, students start the lesson with a simulation that requires them to allocate a kidney to one of six hypothetical patients.

After a brief discussion, they use the market for kidneys to learn about price ceilings and analyze a supply and demand graph. They then consider two types of policies–donation only or open market–and the ethical considerations that come with each. Ultimately, students will decide which allocation method is more aligned with their personal ethical principles.

As an extension,  students learn about the changes in organ donation laws and create an inforgraphic to help the public better understand their policy that should be adopted regarding kidney allocation.