Dialysis Exercise
Scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost in the health sector
A dialysis machine is used by patients who have kidneys that don’t work properly. The machine does what our kidneys naturally do—filter out waste from our blood. The machine is, quite literally, a life saver for these patients. Some patients can receive a kidney transplant if a donor and match is found. Others rely on the machine indefinitely.
Suppose a town has a clinic with only one dialysis machine that can run for 30 hours per week. As the boss of the clinic, you must decide who gets treatment (and who doesn’t).
Below are the patients, their needs, and the information you have to work with:
Patient Personal Hours required Notes
A 6 year old child 10 Are awaiting kidney transplant; expected in 1 year.
B 55 year old male 5 Is married with grown up children.
C 3 year old child 4 Will need dialysis indefinitely.
D 78 year old female 4 Has 10 grandchildren; husband has Alzheimer’s.
E 7 year old child 4 Has 3 brothers and sisters.
F 8 year old child 5 Has no brothers or sisters.
G 30 year old female 6 Has 2 young children.
H 30 year old male 5 Has 2 young children.
I 30 year old male 4 Has no children.
J 45 year old male 6 Has no children. Has a brother who will donate a kidney is 6 months.
K 65 year old male 10 Since he is wealthy, he has promised to buy another dialysis machine if he’s alive in 1 year.

Decide how you will allocate the 30 hours. Make a list in order of preference. Include all 11 people in your preferred order. Then draw a cut-off line—those above the line get treatment, those below it don’t. Remember, if someone who’s getting dialysis gets a kidney transplant, or dies, the others get “bumped up”. I know this is a tough decision, but that’s why you’re the boss getting the big bucks! You might set things up in a chart like below:
Patient Hours Reasons to include or exclude this patient

This kidney/dialysis exercise was a lesson in morals and values, but also a lesson in economics. So, economics is mostly about .