A University of Canterbury study suggests people should be paid for giving an organ in efforts to increase the number of donations.
Postgraduate economics and finance researcher Elizabeth Prasad said the organ donation rate had stagnated over the last decade, yet the waiting list continued to increase, with most of those people needing a new kidney.
The study investigated the law and economics of New Zealand's organ transplant regime.
Ms Prasad said in addition to increasing patient life expectancy and quality of life, kidney transplants were also far more cost-effective than keeping people on dialysis.
She said more than 2500 New Zealanders were receiving dialysis, but only 115 transplants were performed in 2013.
"The situation as it stands is unacceptable and it's unsustainable, obviously it sounds like a radical solution proposing to compensate people, but I think it needs to be looked at because the alternative is that we do nothing and continue perpetuating the shortage as it is."
She said she calculated the minimum compensation to be about $15,000 based on costs.
But she said even if that figure was quite a lot higher, the Government would still save money in the long-run.
Auckland City Hospital clinical director of liver and kidney transplantation Stephen Munn said the idea of paying for organs had been tainted by black markets world-wide.
But he said it was was worthwhile doing a pilot study on paid donations in New Zealand, saying it would have to be heavily regulated to prevent what had happened overseas.
"I think it would be possible to do it here in a graduated fashion and improve the investment first and then potentially make a payment to a group of people who were part of a pilot project, and see how that went."
He said there would have to be measures in place to ensure people were not exploited.