I can always use an extra $30 or $40 thousand. So why can’t I put my left kidney up for sale on eBay? Well, as John Stossel explains in this op-ed, Al Gore and his accomplices in Congress made it a federal crime:

In 1984, U.S. Rep. Al Gore sponsored a law making the sale of organs punishable by five years in jail … So giving someone a kidney is a good deed, but selling the same kidney is a felony.

Does the Gore legislation make sense? Consider the following:

Today, 74,000 Americans wait for kidney transplants while enduring painful, exhausting and expensive hours hooked up to dialysis machines … Every day, about 17 Americans die while waiting for a transplant.

If I were permitted to sell one of my kidneys, in other words, it would put cash in my bank account and save someone’s life—a classic win-win deal. But our betters have said “no,” which seemed crazy to one kidney patient interviewed by Stossel:

The doctors make money, the hospitals make money, the organ procurement organizations make money. Everybody gets something except for the donor!

The kidney patient who made that observation is now dead. I’m sure his wife, kids, and friends are all grateful to Al Gore and the other high-minded moralists who protected him from being sullied by a free market in organs.  

Comments 16

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    The best change is for countries such as the UK and US to change to an opt in rather than opt out system, which the UK is discussing at the moment. Selling organs is unnecessary and a highly unpleasant reflection of inequality.

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 5:20 am
  2. drmatt wrote:

    I know you thought you would never hear me say this but, “good point” If I have a kidney to spare, as long as there where rigorous measures of oversight, why not? If I feel charitable I will donate, maybe it is like a lottery ticket, upon testing they found out I am a perfect match for bill gates who will then of course pay me quite a bit more than the going rate? Though something doesn’t feel right about it. Do you remember why the red cross stopped paying for blood?

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 8:46 am
  3. Catron wrote:

    “I know you thought you would never hear me say this but, ‘good point’”

    It is a little disorienting.

    “Do you remember why the red cross stopped paying for blood?”

    Not really, But I would guess people were giving too frequently.

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 10:34 am
  4. drmatt wrote:

    Nope, because the people who were most willing to sell thier blood were also the most desparate with a much higher propensity for blood borne pathogens and genetic disorders. Basically the down trodden, I can only imagine the same problem would occur with organs. Don’t get too comfortable with testing for this stuff either, the tests aren’t perfect there is sero conversion time, strains of disease not tested for due to the low pretest probability. Needless to say, the sale of blood led to a tainted blood pool.

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 11:14 am
  5. Nurse K wrote:

    Now, I actually disagree with you on this. The process of kidney donation, and transplantation to a relative in need requires psychiatric monitoring to be sure that the donating person isn’t being threatened or coerced into doing it. Apparently, it can go both ways…the donator may coerce the sick person into doing something for him for the kidney, such as willing him his house and belongings if he dies. The sick person may threaten to never speak to the donator again if he doesn’t donate…Any of these situations does not add up to true consent.

    Similarly, in medical ethics, there is a concept whereby people will make decisions that are not good or very risky if the reward is very high. If you are poor or even middle class, for instance, the $40,000 reward is considered to be a form of coercion. There could be a small, inconsequential reward and still not violate this ethical problem, but cash rewards equal to the yearly take-home salary of many middle-class people is a different story.

    Also, if you get Type II diabetes in a couple of years and it’s poorly controlled, you will need that extra kidney and may end up in renal failure yourself where you wouldn’t have had you not sold your kidney. All those people with “chronic renal insufficiency” could need dialysis if they only had one kidney. For one person that may not be a big deal, but if everyone in the country starts flying overseas to donate kidneys to arab princes ‘n stuff, guess who is left to deal with the consequences? Yep. You and me and our pocketbooks.

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 7:12 pm
  6. Catron wrote:

    “If you get Type II diabetes in a couple of years and it’s poorly controlled … who is left to deal with the consequences?”

    I rather like the idea of being a burden on the system (I’ve paid so much into the tax coffers, I’d like to drain them for a while).

    Also, I kinda like the idea of staggering into your ER about 15 minutes before you’re due to get off and keeling over in the triage room (because I’ve aggravated my diabetes by guzzling a fifth of Jack Daniels). That would break up the monotony of quotidian existence a little.

    Seriously, though, I do see where you’re coming from on the coersion issue. It’s not that hard to imagine the lower socio-economic strata becoming organ farms for the higher strata.

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 8:51 pm
  7. Nurse K wrote:

    I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t “like” to be tied to a hemodialysis machine 3 hours every other day to prove a point no more than you’d like county detox. Hypoglycemia is a side effect of alcohol and takes a few minutes to cure, so when your blood sugar is normal—off to the ‘tox!

    Oh, you’re a high-powered hospital finance guy? Yawn. The paramedics are here to take you to the drunk tank, sir.

    Posted 18 Jan 2008 at 5:27 am
  8. Shannon R. wrote:

    I am a healthy, 36 year old who has come to the point in his life where I would like to give something of myself to someone in need of what I have, a kidney.
    I’ve never been a ‘good’ person, and I am rather ashamed of my past. So, my way of recompence, would be to give to a stranger a chance to live.
    Why then could I not sell it?
    And I do not mean to the “highest bidder”, but from a, let’s say, a living donors fund?

    Posted 10 Feb 2008 at 1:59 pm
  9. sam wrote:

    Although it is a little crazy to think about, Yes I think that we should be allowed to sell our kidneys. If I was in need, and I thank God I am healthy, I would not mind paying for a kidney. If it is a matter of my living longer than yes I would pay for a kidney. The days of people giving from the heart with no strings attached are gone. We may not like that but the reality is they are gone. Period gone.

    Life has changed and we must be realistic. Yes I would pay for the kidneys and it should just be legal.

    The real reason why the government does not want the sale is that more people would be alive, there would be no more waiting list for kidneys and all these organizations and health care systems that make money from these kidney list would not be needed and therefore no money being spent for these agencies. Think about it, do you really believe there is no cure for cancer?

    Let is sell the organs if that is what we choose to do.

    Posted 15 Jun 2008 at 11:02 pm
  10. richard wrote:

    i agree! we should be able to sell our kidneys if we so choose! in nevada you can sell your body as a prositute if you want and its legal, why not your kidney? if your willing to live with out one of them and by giving one up you’d be giving another person a chance to live a full life than it should be acceptable.

    Posted 23 Dec 2008 at 4:04 pm
  11. Carla wrote:

    If it’s legal to abort a living child then I can sell my damn kidney! 36life@live.com

    Posted 17 Jan 2009 at 9:22 pm
  12. MIKE wrote:


    Posted 18 Jan 2009 at 8:43 am
  13. AJ Simkatu wrote:

    Yeah! Why shouldn’t I be able to donate my eyes, and liver, and heart as well for the money? If I want the $100,000 in exchange for my heart, why is that cruel Al Gore stepping in the way to prevent the free market economy working in the best interests of everyone, as it always does?

    I’m sure lots of destitute fathers would love to send their children to college, or provide health insurance to their family. Why not let the poor guy sell ALL of his organs to the wealthy folks, so that he can provide for his kids?


    Posted 19 Aug 2009 at 3:55 am
  14. matt wrote:

    So the law says we can’t sell our kidney to make for a win-win and save someones life and help someone out finanacially (especially now that gov’t and banks made a mess) but Big Tobacco can put millions into the pockets of politicians to keep cigatettes legal so they can make billions while millions die from smoking which roles over to rising health care costs which roles over to tax payers. That sounds fair. Gov’t will legalize it when they can profit from it themselves.

    Posted 15 Sep 2011 at 1:42 am
  15. Rich wrote:

    I dont really care if anyone thinks thinks its immoral. You wana know what immoral really is. At 30 years old an employee for the state of ohio was driving a state vehicle drunk and struck me as a pedestrian. Ive spent my whole life working hard 25years in HVAC. I made $1000.00 a week. I dont drink, smoke, or do drugs. I work out regularly just to fight off the back pain(it never goez away). 10 years and 3 low back, and 1 neck surgery later, Im still not able to work. They paid me nothing for taking my life away. My kidneys are MINE and no one has the right to tell me I cant sell them. I can sell anything else I own, why not my kidney. I have another and the second one is just a backup. My wife and I have 3 kids together, I have another daughter in another state and our home is being forclosed on. I now make $735 a month on permanant disability. I spent my youth building a future and a drunk state employee took it all away, but I cant even sell my property to keep my family in food and a home. Im an ex marine so I fought for this country, mayb it should fight for me now.

    Posted 25 Jun 2012 at 10:17 pm
  16. BrandiM wrote:

    Too funny! Nurse K & Catron sound like McDreamy and Meredith!

    Posted 07 Feb 2013 at 11:48 pm

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