Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Kidneys for sale - the solution to our debt problems?

Today a UK academic
suggested

That in order to increase the amount of organs available for transplant, those who are prepared to be live kidney donors should be paid an amount somewhere in the region of £28000.

An example of those who might benefit from such a scheme were students, who might like to use the money to pay off their student debts, but of course anyone might be open to the idea if they thought there was a decent level of payment available.

The British Medical Association have categorically stated that paying individuals to essentially sell their organs is not something that would ever be considered, however it does raise questions:

In the US, it is not uncommon for men to be paid to be sperm donors, in fact this has been seen as a good source of income for many students, especially those who are doctors, and lawyers etc, and who might be seen as good prospects in terms of their fathering intelligent children.

It has also recently become more common for young women to be paid to donate their eggs, a procedure which is far more invasive and carries far greater risks than donating sperm.

Sperm and egg donors are not paid in the UK, although it has been suggested in the past in order to try to reduce the shortage, in order to help infertile couples to conceive.

But is selling a kidney really that much different from selling your eggs or sperm?

If you sell your eggs, there is a possibility that a child, or children, may be conceived as a result, in effect you are selling the chance of creating a new life, and some even see it as selling your biological children.

But selling your potential biological material only really has an impact on the potential parents, and maybe the resulting child. There are no real life risks to doing so, yes egg retrieval is invasive and does carry an element of risk in terms of the hormones a woman has to take, but generally this is something that has little long term impact on her health.

But kidney donation is an invasive procedure that involves the removal of a healthy kidney, in short it is major surgery. It also puts the donor at greater risk of health complications in the event the other kidney should fail.

And from an ethical point of view, it is surely not unreasonable to question whether a young student really has the maturity to make a decision to donate a kidney, not out of selfless altruism, but because of a cash incentive.

How can we possibly justify turning our own body parts from something that give life to us, into commodities that could be traded for the chance to pay off our debts.

We should not be for sale.

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