Last week I watched a documentary on HBO called Tales From the Organ Trade. It raises some interesting questions about the black market trade in human organs. Should we be allowed to sell a kidney to someone needing one?
There are close to 100,000 people currently waiting for a cadaver kidney in the US. Depending on the region a patient lives in and their blood type they could wait 10 years or longer on dialysis to receive a kidney from a cadaver. Each day a patient remains on dialysis they come closer to dying. Finding a living donor that is compatible and willing to donate a kidney can be tough.
Kidneys from a living donor also have the added benefit of lasting longer. The recipient has a good chance of not needing another donated kidney or undergoing dialysis for at least 24 years.
Currently it is illegal in every country but Iran to sell a kidney. Iran limits the availability of kidneys to only Iranian citizens to limit the influx of foreigners wishing for transplantation.
The need drives the thriving black market for kidneys throughout the world. If you knew you were dying what would you do? Where would you draw the ethical lines?
The scary reality is that the donors on the black market get little screening for health compared to the rigorous process I am undergoing. There is no regulation and that can lead to unsafe conditions for not only the donor but the recipient.
At this time there is no compensation for even lost wages to a kidney donor in the US that is permitted. Loss of up to 6 weeks of work with no pay really limits the ability of people who are able to donate a kidney to save a life even if they wanted to! You are not only giving up an organ but you will sustain possible financial hardship as a result of your good deed.
In the US it is legal to sell your hair, your blood, your eggs and your sperm. It is illegal to sell an embryo (though they can be given contractually to another person as property for no financial gain) or an organ. I am not sure this distinction makes sense.
It does make sense to me from a societal standpoint to try to level the financial loss a donor incurs by donating an organ. Then maybe more people like Gavin can live a more normal life!