$50,000 For Your Kidney?

Senior nephrologist, Dr. Gavin Carney, wants the law changed so that young Australians can sell one of their kidneys to the government for $50,000. 

Trading in organs is illegal in Australia carrying a penalty of six months in jail. Last year just 343 kidneys were donated despite over 1800 people on a waiting list. Dr. Carney is exasperated at the low organ donation rate in Australia – apparently one of the lowest in the developed world at just 9.4 donors per million people. 

“People just don’t seem willing to give their organs away for free.” said a frustrated Dr. Carney. 

The chairman of the Renal Transplant Advisory Committee, Scott Campbell, disagrees with Dr. Carney, saying, 

“There’s little doubt that you’ll get more kidneys if you offer money but it will only bring out people who are willing to gamble on adverse health outcomes in exchange for $50,000 because they are in desperate need, such as those in mortgage stress or drug addicts.  Money alters perspectives on honesty and you’ll get people who do not tell the truth because they risk losing the cash.”

He is right. 

Britain has the same problem. Last year the government caused outrage amongst large sections of the population by attempting to change the donation of organs to become the default option rather than a conscious choice. (ie if you don’t want to donate your organs, you have to specify so).

Neither option seems workable to me (one for practical reasons and one for moral reasons). So how do you encourage people to donate?

Update I – apparently 30% of SMH readers would flog their kidneys for $50 grand.

59 thoughts on “$50,000 For Your Kidney?

  1. Pingback: Mortgage news » Blog Archive » $50,000 For Your Kidney?

  2. As a first step, I see no reason why existing organ donors (deceased) can’t receive payment of some sort.

    Long term, maybe a full free market would be workable, but I’d be happy to take the above baby-step to see how that goes (plus, it’s a lot easier to sell politically)

  3. This issue is just full of irrational nonsense.

    Just as the default is burial in a cemetery rather than leaving your body in a tree for the buzzards with the leftovers thrown in the river, the default option can quite easily be in favour of organ donation.

    Those with a valid claim over the body can choose to vary the default if they want. The net effect would be a lot of misery avoided and lives saved.

    Who has a valid claim over a body is equally vexed. I certainly don’t think bodies should automatically become the private property of their heirs or relatives. “Owning” a dead human is only slightly less obscene than owning a live one.

  4. “Owning” a dead human is only slightly less obscene than owning a live one.

    Now you’re talking nonsense yourself… If the body is just a thing, then there is nothing obscene about concept of “ownership”, and if it is something more, then default ownership by the state certainly doesn’t seem that good an option.

    Would you have all assets default to state ownership in the absence of a will?

  5. Well people upwards of $50000 for positive health outcomes, why not allow them to receive payment for taking a risk with negative health outcomes? It isn’t illegal to give your kidneys away- the government doesn’t mind me taking a health risk in exchange for a warm fuzzy feeling. Yet it won’t let me be paid for the same thing? I’d donate my kidney for $50000- that’d be a nice deposit on an investment property while I study.

  6. David

    I agree with fleeced. the default option should not be that the state ‘owns’ your body. that must lie with the relatives (as in a will). however, i dont see why the state couldn’t buy your organs on your death if it perceived some value inherent in them (ie if you die young and healthy).

    this would encourage more people to donate their organs and would get rid of the drug addicts looking for an easy buck.

    i would also like to understand more about the consequences of living with just one kidney. it doesnt sound a sensible strategy.

  7. Shem – i’m sure your kidneys are clean and healthy but how would you avoid those looking for a quick buck who would lie about prior medical conditions?

  8. Shem, you make an interesting point: “Why is it illegal to sell what you can give away for free?”

    I’ve often used the above quote in defense of legalised prostitution – and even many of the fence-sitters nod their head and say, “yeah – good point”. I don’t think they’d be as quick to do so with organ donations though… I confess, I’m not entirely comfortable with it myself.

    Pommy, with regards to people lying about their history to get the cash… surely due diligence is a task for the purchaser?

  9. Pommy-
    I think stem cell research will overtake all these arguments (donate one kidney, and grow a replacement), but I agree that I should be able to assign my parts where I want them to go.
    If I will my body to someone when it has expired, then they should be able to reject it or accept it.
    Perhaps the ‘State’, whatever that means, could be the disposer of last resort?

  10. Pommy,

    “9.4 million donors per million people.” I’m thinking that might either be a typo or we are all donating on average 9.4 million kidneys each.

  11. Pommy – with the lying issue. Were you concerned that lying about medical history could put their own lives at risk, or the organ recipient?

    My comment about the due diligence was concerning the latter… that medical checks (and even follow-ups of family history) should uncover anything noteworthy.

  12. fleeced – the recipient.

    In practice i dont see how it would be possible to ‘check’ people’s medical history.

    “Have you ever taken Class A drugs?” “No? Great. Here’s 50 grand.”

  13. Except in very rare cases (eg, David Hookes), the identity of organ donors is concealed – it is not generally known that such-and-such a person’s organ(s) were transplanted, and even if a recipient wants to know the identity of their donor, this information is denied to them.

    My suggestion to help increase the number of people willing to have their organs used in the event of their untimely death is that, far from donor identity being hidden, it should be publicised, and, specifically, the recipient should be required to be informed of the identity of their organ donor, and something about that person.

    Donor organs are treated as commodities. People on the waiting lists wait impatiently for an organ to “become available”, and await holiday long weekends in hopeful anticipation with their toothbrush and jamies packed. After a successful transplant, they are grateful to the surgical team and hospital staff, and try to sublimate the uncomfortable knowledge that they have inside themselves a live bit of someone who is otherwise dead.

    I have carried a donor card (or driving licence endorsement) all of my adult life, as well as being a motor-cycle rider for many years. My frugal nature objects to waste of any kind, and I would much rather that anyone get a few more years use out of my giblets than just having them burn or rot. However, I resent the fact that, should I (unfortunately for me; luckily for someone else) fail to negotiate some turn in the road, the beneficiary of my organ would not know who their ‘gift’ was from.

    It is a pretty-much universal desire to be remembered after you are dead. People donate money to the building of civic monuments, church windows, etc etc, and their only ‘reward’ is their name on a little plaque at the bottom of it. I’m pretty sure that lots more people would carry organ donor cards if they knew, should they end up saving someone else’s life after their own tragic death, that the beneficiary of their involuntary sacrifice would know their name.

    People will do a lot for recognition and acknowledgement. The monetary cost of implementing my suggestion is zero.

  14. Adam – that is a good point. what is the official reason for concealing the identity of the donor?

  15. Apparently this will exploit the poor.

    No doubt the same people who say this say that getting rid of other market restrictions like minimum wages will exploit the poor.

    $50 000 is less exploitative than $0.

  16. I think I saw a comment on Libertarian-International, about the EU banning the sale of organs, because it would affront the dignity of the poor donor! It is better to starve to death in dignity, than exist undignifiedly!

  17. Pommy, it’s quite easy to stipulate in a contract that you have a right to dig up private info on a person, and if the medical tests say that the organs are good and the person is healthy, isn’t that enough?

    A bigger cause of concern would than whether they’d ever used specific drug would be family history – and that can surely be checked into.

    At the moment, problems still creep in:

    “ORGANS from a teenager whose death was wrongly blamed on bacterial meningitis were transplanted into two people who later died of a rare cancer that was revealed as his real cause of death.”

  18. Australia only needs 1800 kidneys. If you had 2000 donors you could now be more selective. If you had 20,000 donors you could now be very very selective so only the best kidneys from the healthiest people get used. If a profit incentive is able to attract far more people who want to donate a kidney then there would be a larger supply then demand. Making money off selling kidneys may sound low because it brings profit into something that was only considered a selfless sacrifice but I am certain that it sucks way more to be a person in need of a kidney in a situation where there are no available organs due to organ trade prohibition.

    How about a much more modest proposal. Blood. Your blood regenerates fairly quickly. You can donate it frequently without any serious health problems. Why not be able to sell your blood at say $50-$100 per 500 mL. Right now, at least here in America, blood donation is only in the arena of a selfless act of giving. There are sometimes shortages of blood. But if there was a small profit in blood donation this would encourage people to sell their blood and thus reduce or eliminate blood shortages. I don’t know about you guys but I would rather have blood shortages be a thing of the past and lose the warm fuzzy selfless feeling.

    And if receiving money for your blood is unethical, there is something you can do to make yourself feel better. Send your money to me.

  19. There is one other concern- some organs are literally changing the minds of their recipients!
    Saw some stories a while back about how people who received transplants also got the attitudes and abilities of the donors! Especially heart transplants! Memory is holistic, and the heart has some nerve tissue, so it need not be supernatural. But how do we know that kidneys won’t transplant talents? Perhaps whole new drinking habits?
    On the organ donation card, you’d better list talents and prejudices, just in case! I wouldn’t want any of my organs to support a socialist, unless I could be certain of liberating the socialist from left-wing dogma!

  20. If Richard Smart was here he’d be quoting his much beloved study showing that paying for blood donations actually reduced donations as those who used to give for altruistic reasons now found this tainted and didn’t donate any more.

  21. I don’t feel altruistically tainted by money. Plenty of corporations and wealthy people don’t. Maybe Richard is insecure.

  22. Signing a contract for the sale of your body after death is fine with me. As is selling your spare kidney in life.

    I’m against brain transplants however, even though some people desparately need a new brain. 😉

  23. no-one here, though, Terje 🙂

    tim – volunteers are awarded a much higher social status than traders. i think this is probably justified, though i cant figure out why.

  24. There is nothing wrong with the legal default option being in favour of organ donation. It’s nonsense to argue that the state would own them. In a privatised medical environment the state wouldn’t necessarily own anything.

    It simply reverses the onus of choice – a legal assumption is made that people will choose to help fellow humans by donating their organs, unless they consciously choose not to. It’s no more than the reverse of the current assumption – that people will choose not to donate their organs unless they specify otherwise. Neither is inherently preferable.

    I don’t have any in-principle objections to sale of organs, but there are plenty of practical objections and it is not particularly wise, especially given the growing epidemic of diabetes. Reversing a legal assumption seems far more pragmatic.

  25. If people still want to feel all fuzzy and don’t like being paid for blood donations, they can always donate the money to charity. Maybe we could even make it simpler and give them a list of options on the form (eg, “Make money payable to one of the following charities…”)

    Then they could get a tax receipt instead 🙂

  26. I’m also pretty relaxed about the proposition put by DavidL. Why pay for something that regularily gets thrown away?

  27. Plumbers aren’t the only people to realise there is money in shit. Green waste gets trasnformed into fertiliser these days.

    Maybe hospitals will sell body parts as part of an agreement you get treated there?

  28. Terje: because some people don’t consider it simply being “thrown away”

    Mark: Interesting idea… but do you really want to be treated at a hospital which has a vested interest in your death? It’s one of the reasons I’m not an organ donor – I don’t trust them to make as much of an effort to save me.

  29. I know it is a common tactic to declare that anyone who doesn’t take your side on the issue de jour is a bigot, but I think in this situation it really does come close to being the case.
    The arguments against mercenary organ donations always seem to be tinged with emotion and centred around how it makes society look in that how some people are allegedly treated.
    There is seldom substantive arguments against organ trading such that, for example, it may in the final tally cost lives, or deny freedom of choice, or cost the taxpayer too much, or deny basic fundamental rights or increase the crime rate, or whatever. (There are some arguments presented about the future health of the donor but as this is the same for voluntary as well as mercenary donations, it makes the point moot. As with the possibility of a diseased organ for sale: better caveat emptor than all of the 1800 die.)

    Generally the arguments we are given are that it is unethical, although without being told why; that donors, who generally would be poor, are being exploited (a highly subjective term); and that for some mystic reason an object in the form of a body part, even if bequeathed by the original possessor, just somehow cannot be owned.

    Dare I say it, I think it is a good extemporaneous litmus test on judging a person’s rationality and control over his/her emotions, by asking him his position on organ trading.

  30. Philip – could you send me an email – pommy999 at yahoo dot com dot au


  31. You bunch of nanny-staters. I own my kidney. Not you. Therefore only I should decide what I do with it.

    If you think I am doing the wrong thing with my kidneys (or with my house, or with my shirt) then you can tell me. I’ll consider what you have to say. And then I will make my own decision.

  32. Temujin, you are a selfish bastard. Don’t you know that those who serve the crown are in that position because they know what’s best for you?

    If you do the wrong thing with your house or your shirt they have a responsibility to make you do what they think is right, after all your mother would.

    What’s more you should cut out doing things which might damage those organs so that they are in good condition, after all I might need them some day and you have a responsibility to provide me with only the best product available.

  33. Back to agreeing to be harvested: agreeing to donate your body to research if you die might be a way for the less well off to pay for treatment for rare, terminal or life threatening diseases.

  34. I still don’t see why people shouldn’t be able to sell their organs on their death so that their relatives can benefit. This would dramatically increase supply and remove the druggies from the donor pool.

  35. Temujin,

    So if you die and your corpse is laying on the table we have to ask your permission to move the damn thing? I think not.

    If you die without previously telling us what you want done with your remains then I say we can homestead your kidneys and hock them to the highest bidder. Burying your body in a pine box seems perverted by comparison. The law does not need to say that the state owns your body when you die, it can simply say that they are fair game for any passing doctor if you or your heirs don’t make a prior claim. No state ownership required.

  36. I need alot of money for my family emergencies.
    If you need a very healthy kidney to move on your life
    I will help you and I also have a chance to help my family
    to get a better lives in their futures as well.

    Again, I am male 34 of age, us citizen very healthy,
    actively, none smoking, none drinking and none alcoholic either. I am willing to sell my healthy kidney at anytime.

  37. I am male 34 of age, us citizen very healthy, actively no drinking, no smoking and no alcoholic either. I am willing to sell my healthy kidney up to $100.000us dollars for my family emergencies. If you need to contact on email or you can call me at (702) 481-8469 I always ready to help you and my family for futures.

  38. Pingback: Club Troppo » Missing Link Daily

  39. sir iwant money age 31 iam in hyderabad, please tell me sir , want 50,0000 dollers . iam waiting, for reply.

  40. Hello Sir
    I am Rahil Goda, 21 Male,
    No smoke, alcoholic and Medical Bg.
    I am a national level player,
    I am in Very big Financial problem
    I want to sell my kidney for my mother
    I need 50 Lacs Indian Rs.
    India, Mumbai, +91 93218 99007
    Please help me as soon as possible

  41. Hello Everyone,
    HI m Chandan here, a 23 yr old healthy, strong guy from Pune and an Engg student. i want to sell my kidney in USD 60,000 or less. it depends on against party. actually i want to sell due to financial problem. any one want to buy it plesae contact me and help me. my blood group is O(+)ve. m waiting here ur kind reply. Contact me at5 snihar4u@breakthru.com or snihar4u@yahoo.com

  42. Hero got paid to serve in this country($40000 sign on bonus) , Hospital ,Doctor performed kidney transplant making alot of money $100000 – $300000 US $ ,Drugs company make alot money too . Donors who take a chance to risking their future life got NOTHING ,even some people still thinking it’s ashamed to give their kidney for money , what’s wrong with you people ? their pain , their time lost , their future life mean nothing for you ? in my opinion Goverment just don’t want to allow to sell your kidney because they think it’s going to a threat their medical company , if patient get kidney easy they don’t make a profit anymore. They rather to see people die waiting for 5 – 8 years for kidney and they make alot of money from dialysis and any other treatment.

  43. ya..yes…it’s true….actualy i also want to donate my kidney ,my eyes,….alive…..can you help me…plz….
    it’s possible or mot….plz give me reply….n help me to donate my body for medical experiments….

  44. hi
    i m suresh prajapati from india, Gujarat, Ahmedabad. my age is 29 and blood group is O+ and i want money. i want to donate my kidney for money. please mail me if anybody want my kidney. my mail is prajapati0@gmail.com

  45. I am a 46yr old,white,healthy male non-drinker, I am not selling my kidney , but rather donating one,however, I would like a generous (gift) for my time/loss of income/pain/transportation/ and all medical costs.my blood type 0- serious inquirers only. you can e-mail me at tb30016@comcast.net

  46. I have a fully functional healthy KIDNEY for “Donation” & also I wish to “Donate” a part of my LIVER to the highly needed person. But I really need a good compensation (around 40-50 thousand U.S.Dollars, not negotiable) for this “Sacrifice”. Donor is a male (38 years) from India in excellent health condition, blood type is B(-). I am HIV FREE, NO drugs, NO drinking. Kidney-Recipient to bear ALL costs including travel to and from, starting the day I leave and till I return home, hotel room, hospitial tests and sugery and all charges including all recovery charges and all charges due to all other recovery from any and all complications if any and MORE IMPORTANTLY, for the compensation for “my sacrifice” too. Surgery to be done anywhere the recipient wishes. For more info e-mail me at kidneydonor@rediffmail.com

  47. i am 37 female in very good health. drug free,strong,no meds.i am in the connecticut area. i am selling my kidney and i am looking for seriuose people only. i am looking to get paid very well+expenses.and willing to do surgery where ever the recipient wishes. anywhere in the u.s. i look forward to speaking with you and hope things work out….elbajoanrobles@yahoo.com.

  48. Urgent for SomeOne Who Need a says:
    I’m 25 years old male. No drugs n no drinks. willing to donate kidney to person who will pay for time, pain and suffering, travel and all medical bills.I’m in Himachal Pradesh,India. healthy B+ Blood. You can contact me at my cell no-09816733278
    Or E-mail to me – rahul_sb_007 @yahoo.com
    Plz dont treat it fake n plz only serious person only contact.
    Its urgent.

  49. i am 34+years old an unemployed person of my motherland india, interested to sell hole orgnas of my body with legal cost. fifty percent of selling cost i will save at bank for ten year future planning of my only son’s better education. which person is very needy for getting any orgnas from me then, so quick contanct me on this mobile number-9776178553, 9776230335.

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