With the new iPhone released for sale, many people are wondering how much would one of their kidneys cost. Let’s start with the most important thing: It currently is illegal in the US to buy, sell, advertise or seek to procure any of the human organs or tissue that can usefully be sliced off one person and sewn onto another and this includes skin, bone marrow, corneas, small bowel, pancreas, livers, kidneys, lungs, hearts, heart valves or tendons. This is regardless of how sick you are, what is your financial status, occupation, or whether you’re a celebrity or not. This country has it in its laws that no person is more important than the other and nobody can jump on top of the list. What you can do is join at the end of the queue and wait your turn like any other normal person.
Nowadays, however, people think of themselves to be more important than the average Joe, giving them the feeling that they deserve to be closer to the top of the list; this leads to people having no problem ignoring the law for the sake of a new organ, be it a kidney, liver, or a similar organ. In parts of western Europe, there are over 35.000 people already waiting for a kidney transplant. Out of those, a third will probably die while they are still waiting. This is the result of a reduced supply on top of increased demand, making people OK with jumping over the waiting list.
But how much will a kidney cost if you’re willing to ignore the law? It really depends on what you want and where you’re willing to go to get it. On the black market, you will be charged around $100,000 to $200,000 for a kidney transplant from eastern Europe, as shown by a recent study released by the Council of Europe. From this incredibly high expense, the donor will only get about $2,500 to $3,000. These donors are usually young, healthy, male Moldovans and Romanians, living in poor conditions in rural parts of Europe, between the ages of 18 and 30. The number seems unfairly low, but it isn’t the lowest; A study by the American Medical Association from 2002 found that 305 kidney donors From Chennai, India got an average of only $1,000 each per organ. Most of them said that it was the only way to get out of poverty. These weren’t the lowest paid, surveys showing young Indians selling kidneys for as little as $100.
One of the places where buying organs is not only acceptable but encouraged is Israel. This is where even medical insurance companies will partly remunerate your expenses for the transplant. They will usually go through Turkey, in Moldova, Romania, and Estonia to procure the organs. One of the biggest worldwide scandals involved China, that was accused of harvesting different types of organs from executed Chinese prisoners. Research shows that China exports organs primarily to the US market.
The president of the Royal Society of Medicine’s transplant committee says that the Philippines is the number one supplier of kidneys for Britons, although other countries, which he refused to name, also offer plentiful fresh meat for export. Although he acknowledges that a lot of people spend big money to get kidneys from abroad, he confesses that only those who develop complications after the transplant will get in touch with him for help. “I have heard of some cases where the patient was given the transplant, and shortly afterward put in a taxi and on a plane and sent home, with the minimum of drugs. We don’t know, either, whether they had checked if the donor was compatible, or had a transmissible disease.” A survey from last year out of 12 transplant units around the UK uncovered has shown an alarming result: from 29 known cases of patients who had bought kidneys abroad – more than 50% of the organs failed, leading to the death of 30% of the patients.
Although there are organs that can be donated partially, as a portion of the liver or even a portion of the lung, the only organ that seems to flourish on the black market is the kidney.
A documented case was the one of Thor Andersen, a London-based property tycoon, that paid £25,000 to travel to Pakistan to buy a kidney from a 22-year-old woman. She received financial aid of £2,000, plus a further £1,000 “to show my appreciation”. “I won’t lose any sleep over what I did. The girl needed money and I needed my life back.” Instead of becoming outraged at what he had done, Andersen argued later, Britons should automatically be put on to a transplant register of which they could opt out. “Then people wouldn’t have to see rich people like me who have gone to a poor country to buy a kidney.”