The debate over financial incentives and market models for organ procurement represents a key trend in recent bioethics. In this paper, we wish to reassess one of its central premises—the idea of organ shortage. While the problem is often presented as an objective statistical fact that can be taken for granted, we will take a closer look at the underlying framework expressed in the common rhetoric of “scarcity”, “shortage” or “unfulfilled demand”. On the basis of theoretical considerations as well as a socioempirical examination of public attitudes, we will argue that this rhetoric has an economic subtext that imbues the debate with normative premises that have far-reaching social and ethical consequences and need to be made explicit and discussed.
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