What If We Could Legally Sell A Kidney?

WHAT IF you could legally sell your kidney? | WHAT IF?
WHAT IF you could legally sell your kidney? | WHAT IF?

Twelve people will die tomorrow because no donor will give them a kidney. Current models of organ donation in the United States say that organ donation must ...


Have you or a loved one ever needed an organ? The waiting line for a donor kidney can be months- or years-long. Sometimes the needed organ never arrives. The waiting list for organs is 120,000 long, and 98,000 for kidneys alone.

Lengthy wait times are attributable to a federal law that prohibits selling of one’s organs. One is only allowed to donate based on altruism, an act of disinterested service with no personal gain.

Yeah, there's a hornet's nest sitting inside the idea of soliciting people for their kidneys, but with a growing lack of compassion in the world, maybe a financial incentive would tilt the heavy decision-making in favor of those in need.

Dr. Sally Satel, recipient of two donated kidneys herself, says it’s time to consider compensating kidney donors. In the video above, she explains that adding financial incentives could help to fix the shortage of kidneys.

So the consequence of the shortage also cost the federal government an enormous amount of money to maintain people on dialysis. It’s about $35 to $40 billion a year, which is a lot of money. That’s about 7 percent of the Medicare budget, which is huge, especially when you consider that only 1 percent of the Medicare beneficiaries are people with what's called end-stage renal disease.

Now if there were no alternative, then 7 percent is what it would be, because otherwise these people would die without dialysis. But they could live so much better lives and more free lives if they had a kidney. And there is a way to compensate people in a safe and ethical way.

So the idea here is that there would be a third party, either the federal government or state government or some sort of charity that’s government approved, that would offer a reward, a benefit, to someone willing to donate a kidney while they're alive to a needy stranger.

And what kinds of rewards could these be? They could be, for example, a tax credit, they could be loan forgiveness, they could be a contribution to a person's 401K account, it could be a guarantee of health care for the next 10 to 20 years, could be a contribution to a charity of that person's choice.

The point is that there's this third party that's providing the reward so it doesn't come from the needy person because there will be needy people who couldn't afford to do such a thing. So this way everyone who needs a kidney would be eligible under such a system.

The consensus is that the value of a kidney is around $50,000. Some may see that as a very high price, but to keep a person on dialysis each year costs about $90,000. That leaves plenty of financial wiggle room to create such a system.

Satel notes that other body products that we are sellable do not have shortages; sperm donors, egg donors, and plasma donors are in abundant supply. What is running short are blood donors and kidney donors, products which are illegal to sell.

People on both sides of the equation have a lot to gain, one with some compensation, the other potentially with their life and freedom. Perhaps it’s time to consider a change to the organ donation program.'

What do you think of compensating people for giving away their organs?