The idea of using financial incentives in organ donation, such as paying kidney donors, has been subject to heated debate. Now, a new study shows that using this strategy to address the shortage of kidneys would be less costly and more effective than the current organ donation system, researchers say.

In the study, researchers found that assuming a payment of $10,000 and an increase of kidneys available for transplantation by 5 percent, a strategy of paying living donors would save the health system $340 over the lifetime of each patient, compared with the current organ donation system. The study was published today (Oct. 24) in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The savings come from lower costs and improved health outcomes over the recipient’s life. “Transplant has a higher upfront cost, but the yearly maintenance cost is lower than dialysis,” said study author Lianne Barnieh, a researcher at the University of Calgary.