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How Much Is Your Kidney Worth?

Jemma Gibson weighs up the debate surrounding Dr Sue Rabbitt Roff’s suggestion of £28,000 kidney donation payments

Written by . Published on August 4th 2011.


How Much Is Your Kidney Worth?

THE STEREOTYPE of a hard up student surviving on cold baked beans and economy bread, bears little resemblance to student living for the majority. While a student loan won’t furnish a life of luxury, it goes a long way to covering the essentials and is often topped up by generous parents or part time work. Moreover when it comes to student loans, low interest rates and low monthly repayments make it one of the cheapest forms of borrowing. Not something one would be in a hurry to repay.

There is no end to the list of things I’d like do with that sum, from the practical to the glamourous and outright ridiculous (repaying my student loan would not be high on the list) but frankly I think I value my kidney more.

Dr Sue Rabbitt Roff, a researcher at Dundee University has written an article for the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggesting payment of kidney donors (about £28,000) should be considered.

One use for the money suggested by Dr Roff is the repayment of student loans. Although she states that the high monetary sum should avoid the system targeting ‘poor people’, this seems to be disregarded when she highlights students - a typically poor and indebted group.

There is no doubt that £28,000 is a lot of money, which would benefit most people, not just students. As Dr Roff points out, it is roughly equivalent to the average annual salary in the UK and there is no end to the list of things I’d like do with that sum, from the practical to the glamourous and outright ridiculous (repaying my student loan would not be high on the list) but frankly I think I value my kidney more.

The only thing that this payment system could be equated to at the moment, is paid clinical trials with participants doing anything from giving a blood sample and taking medicine to having surgery in exchange for cash. While this likewise could be seen to be morally questionable, payment for trials, from a quick scour of the internet, never seems to reach the £10,000 mark, let alone more and – not that I’m a medical professional - they don’t seem to be as potentially life changing as donating a kidney.

Dr Sue Rabbitt RoffDr Sue Rabbitt RoffOne thing that immediately sprung to mind is the more traditional system for living kidney donations between siblings - I have a brother and a sister. Of course if I were to donate my kidney to a stranger I’d be glad I was helping someone and the financial incentive would be a nice bonus, but what if then, somewhere down the line, a relative were to need my kidney?

Or what if my brother needed my kidney (and I still had two), and payments had been introduced (and I didn’t particularly like my brother), and I said no, you can’t have it, until you give me £28,000. You get the idea. A whole clandestine system could emerge with payments or bargaining for organs where the donors and recipients are acquainted.

Surely, the financial incentive has the capability at least to skew one’s thinking, in particular of course, for someone facing financial hardship. On top of this, the angle Dr Roff takes, describing the need for kidneys, and stating that three people die each day as they wait for a kidney, feels almost like a guilt trip. Between the money and the knowledge of the demand for kidneys it becomes difficult to think many people would be able to make an entirely rational decision or keep to purely altruistic motives.

The difficult part in weighing up this debate comes after reading a whole range of stories about desperate people, in need of either cash or a kidney. Some go online, and then abroad to engage in the risky business of illegal organ dealing and backstreet operations. They risk far greater medical complications than would be likely in this country under a legalised system, but is it right to legalise such a questionable practice in order to protect those so willing to take such extreme risks and possibly break the law?

Where would it stop? Surely introducing payments for kidney donations is big step toward making this practice of selling our body parts acceptable in the eyes of society, medicine and of the law. How long before I can rock up to donate a pint of blood and come away with a tenner on top of the biscuit and cup of tea?

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22 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

The issue of paying for live organ donations has been debated extensively by bioethicists for many years. The reason for introducing financial rewards for donors is to increase the number of kidneys available in order to meet demand. If it were not, then there would be no reason to have the debate in the first place. Therefore, the writer's brother or sister wouldn't have to rely on her for a kidney as there would be others readily available. Also, the 'Where would it stop?' objection, like all 'slippery slope arguments', is weak, since it would not be difficult to make moral judgements for different forms of organ/tissue donations. Paying for blood donations, for example, is less morally contentious than kidney donations, as the procedure is not as invasive and the donated blood is replenished over time. Finally, the writer fails to touch on the important matter of individual autonomy. If I wish to sell a kidney and make an informed decision to do so, then why should the state be allowed to stop me? Anyway, there are some lengthier arguments to read on the issue in the Journal of Medical Ethics from 2003. See here: http://jme.bmj.com/content/29/3/137.full.pdf

1 Response: Reply To This...
Edward BarrettAugust 8th 2011.

You can increase the number of kidneys available by making voluntary donation an opt-out scheme.

The 'slippery slope' argument is not weak. Look at countries with commercialised healthcare (eg the uUS) and you will see problems and scandals, including the (relatively) recent case of diseased tissues being taken from corpses and sold to be used in grafts and transplants - sometimes passing on cancers to the recipients. Or look at China, where organs have been used from executed prisoners - surely a system open to abuse.

Payment for blood donations is one of the reasons for so many haemophiliacs contracting hepatitis: the most desperate in society - including IV drug-users - are the most likely to donate, and the most likely to carry blood-borne diseases.

As for individual autonomy - why should I not sell drugs? Or guns? Or become a prostitute? A very weak argument.

mellychopsAugust 8th 2011.

I am 3 weeks post op after donating my kidney to my husband. The pain is excruciating and surgery intensive but the result of my husband being well was all worth it. But £28,000 to donate wow yes that would have been lovely but to be honest wouldn't that money be much better spent on theatres and nursing staff? Or on more satelitte dialysis units? On advertising? I donated via a shared pool scheme ever heard of it? Probably not because it isn't advertised much. £28,000 is a ridiculous amount. I could understand 1-2 thousand to cover loss of earnings etc as the recovery time can be long plus prior to surgery you have a lot of appointments for extensive tests.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

What a brave and altruistic woman you are. Wishing you and your husband many happy years together. The £28,000 is to encourage people with no personal affinity to the recipient to donate a kidney. Given what you said about the pain, I think it's probably about right! :)

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

@ Edward: Some opt-out schemes have been successful at increasing national organ donations. Spain springs to mind, although it was coupled with a raft of other initiatives, including better communication between A&E departments and transplant wards, and measures to reduce objections from families. Many opt-out countries have no better donation rates than the opt-in UK system because they have not addressed the issue of family objections. The UK would have a far better donation rate if this was tackled too, because even when a patient is on the register, if relatives object to the harvesting of organs, doctors will not proceed even though the law might allow them to. That's why I have made it clear to my family that they must not object if, heaven forbid, I am in that situation. However, cadaveric organ donations, even in Spain, which has one of the highest donation rates of any country, still come nowhere near meeting the demand for organs, which is why live organ donations have been a hotly debated topic in academic circles. I hope you took the time to read the JME papers I posted a link to. I'll address your other two points in separate posts, as I cannot do paragraphs on this site.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

@ Edward: Slippery slope arguments are intrinsically weak in moral and ethical discourse, whether they are about organ donations or not. They are often used by people who are struggling to find rational, non-faith based arguments for what intuitively feels morally wrong to them. The problem with slippery slope arguments is that they could be applied to anything and, if they were, nothing would be morally permissible. In her article, Jemma Gibson put forward a rather strange slippery slope argument when she brought up payment for blood donation. In some respects, she was actually climbing up the slope, rather than sliding down it. Paying blood donors seems far less problematic than paying kidney donors, for the points I mentioned in my original post, despite your practical misgivings, which I would suggest would be dealt with through the improved screening of blood products that is now routine. A true slippery slope argument for this debate would have been to suggest live kidney donations could lead to payments for an eye, part of a liver, a lung etc. But each of these organ donations could be debated from ethical and medical perspectives independently of live kidney donation payments. We can stop sliding down the slope wherever we choose, which is why such arguments are crass and dismissed as pretty much irrelevant in academia.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

@ Edward: Finally, you say that individual autonomy is a 'weak argument'. Perhaps you have misunderstood what I was trying to say, as personal autonomy is of prime consideration in medical ethics. Autonomy does not mean giving individuals the opportunity to do whatever they like, like sell drugs or guns. It means that the informed consent of a person should be taken seriously if it relates to them personally and any action they so choose does not do harm to others. Calls to personal autonomy are in fact the strongest arguments there are in philosophical bioethics.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

@ Jemma: While I applaud you for raising the issue of paid-for organ donations on a popular news site in light of Dr Roff's BMJ article, I have to question whether, as a journalist, you feel qualified to offer this as an opinion piece. As I have already said above, this is a debate that has been ongoing for many years in academic circles and, if you read the papers I posted in my link, the consensus among internationally renowned bioethicists, like Harris and Savulescu, are at odds with your interpretation of the arguments. You mention 'guilt trip' in your article. We should feel guilty. Guilty for the three people dying a day for lack of a kidney. Live organ donations offers us a chance to save lives. Surely this should have been at the heart of your article. Next time you 'weigh up' a debate, do it by interviewing experts on both sides of an argument and save the commentary for matters you are more familiar with.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

I'll stop trolling now!

JamesJanuary 31st 2015.

how do i donate my kidney

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

Attention, Welcome to national teaching hospital Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, national teaching hospital Clinic Limited . We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you do not know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH].. Good luck Good luck to you. Best RegardAttention, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited. We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you don’t know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH]. . Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Dr kate

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

Attention, Welcome to national teaching hospital Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, national teaching hospital Clinic Limited . We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you do not know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH].. Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Attention, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited. We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you don’t know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH]. . Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Dr Kate

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

Attention, Welcome to national teaching hospital Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, national teaching hospital Clinic Limited . We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you do not know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH].. Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Attention, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited. We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you donât€™t know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com[NTH]. . Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Dr kate

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

Attention, Welcome to national teaching hospital Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, national teaching hospital Clinic Limited . We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you do not know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH].. Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Attention, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited Are you interested in selling your kidney to overcome all your financial problem, Welcome to Abuja Clinic Limited. We offer free, no obligation assistance to international patients to find world class medical treatment. Do you want to buy a Kidney or you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you donât€™t know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount of money for your Kidney we specialize for top class medical treatment like Heart Surgery, Cancer Care, Spinal fusion surgery , sleeve mastectomy surgery , and other major surgeries. contact us now via:nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com[NTH]. . Good luck Good luck to you. Best Regard Dr kate

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

hello, my name is Kate perry am a doctor in world wide national teaching hospital and i deal with kidney buying and transplant.am in interested to buy a kidney at a very huge amount of money.if you have any kidney to sell we are going to pay you a big amount of of dollars.as far you have a very powerful kidney that can save life.contact nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com.thanks and God bless you for contributing to someones health.sell your kidney and be rich today info us directly at nationalteachihghospital@gmail.com[NTH].

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

hello, my name is Kate perry am a doctor in world wide national teaching hospital and i deal with kidney buying and transplant.am in interested to buy a kidney at a very huge amount of money.if you have any kidney to sell we are going to pay you a big amount of of dollars.as far you have a very powerful kidney that can save life.contact nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com.thanks and God bless you for contributing to someones health.sell your kidney and be rich today info us directly at nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com[NTH].

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

hello, my name is Kate perry am a doctor in world wide national teaching hospital and i deal with kidney buying and transplant.am in interested to buy a kidney at a very huge amount of money.if you have any kidney to sell we are going to pay you a big amount of of dollars.as far you have a very powerful kidney that can save life.contact nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com.thanks and God bless you for contributing to someones health.sell your kidney and be rich today info us directly at nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com[NTH].

Kate PerryApril 15th 2015.

hello, my name is Kate perry am a doctor in world wide national teaching hospital and i deal with kidney buying and transplant.am in interested to buy a kidney at a very huge amount of money.if you have any kidney to sell we are going to pay you a big amount of of dollars.as far you have a very powerful kidney that can save life.contact nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com.thanks and God bless you for contributing to someones health.sell your kidney and be rich today info us directly at nationalteachinghospital@gmail.com[NTH].

Dr SoodAugust 28th 2015.

Dear Sir /Madam, Do you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an Opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to Financial Break Down and you don’t know what to do, then contact Us Today and we shall Offer you Good Amount for your Kidney. My name is Dr. S.C.Sood. Am a Phrenologist in Max Super Speciality Hospital. Our Hospital is specialized in Kidney Surgeries and we also deal with Buying and Transplantation of kidneys with a corresponding Donor. We are Located in Indian, UK, USA, Malaysia. If you are interested in Selling or Buying Kidney’s please don’t hesitate to Contact Us Via email: info.maxspeciality@gmail.com for more info. With regards, Max Super Speciality Hospital Dr. S.C.Sood

AnonymousAugust 5th.

Do you want to sell your kidney? Are you looking for an opportunity to sell his kidney for money due to the financial break down and you do not know what to do, then contact us today at the uffure Hospital and ( 3000000USD) We will provide for kidney . Our hospital specializes in renal surgery and we also deal with buying and selling. The donor kidney transplant with a corresponding live. We are located in India.usa and Nigeria If you are interested in buying or selling kidneys please do not hesitate to contact us via email: uffurehospital33@gmail.com Waiting for your answer. Dr. Peter Williams

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