INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Nearly three out of five Americans would be more likely to give up a kidney if they were offered $50,000, according to a recently-published study.
Researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine surveyed more than a thousand people and found while 68 percent would be willing to donate a kidney to anyone, 59 percent would be more likely to donate a kidney if they received $50,000. The study concluded “laws and regulations prohibiting donor compensation should be modified to allow pilot studies of financial incentives for living kidney donors.”
Organ donation can truly give someone a new lease on life, but it is illegal in the U.S. to receive any compensation, even a gift, in return for your organ.
Still, too many patients are dying while waiting on the transplant list. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 100,791 patients are currently waiting for a kidney transplant in the U.S. and 13 people die each day waiting.
Julie Korporal shudders at the thought of those statistics, because she’s a part of them.
Korporal was 29 years old when she underwent a kidney transplant. Her kidney came from a 9-year-old boy from out of state who’d passed away. The donation, she said, gave her 17 long years of a full life.
“(I got to) raise my kids. I got to see them graduate. I’ve got a grandchild,” said Korporal.
But now, Korporal’s transplant kidney is failing and she is back on the wait list.
“You hear all the time how many people die waiting on an organ. That’s what scares me the most,” she said.
Those who don’t want to wait sometimes turn to the black market.
In 2011, FOX News reported a New York man pleaded guilty to trafficking kidneys.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum called himself the a kidney “matchmaker.” Prosecutors alleged Rosenbaum would convince vulnerable victims in Israel to give up their kidneys for $10,000 and then sell those organs to Americans for $120,000.
The shortage of kidneys has even created transplant tourism. Websites offer “all inclusive” transplant packages that cover doctor’s fees, hospital and hotel stay, and even ground transportation if you visit a foreign country to have a kidney transplant.
But researchers of the study concluded we should be studying ways to regulate incentivizing organ donation without creating a black market.
JoJo Sturgeon, a mother of five in Indianapolis, agrees.
Sturgeon wants to donate her kidney, because she was moved by a FOX59 News story about a woman’s passionate plea to find a kidney. However, her research into donating made her think twice.
“The surgery is not as bad as what it once used to be, but it still includes a 4-6 week recovery time, from my understanding. And that's time off work,” Sturgeon said.
While medical expenses are usually paid for by the recipient’s insurance, donors are not offered any compensation for missing work.
"The concern is if you do something like that then you take advantage of groups that are most vulnerable,” said Dr. Tim Taber, Medical Director of the IU Health Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program.
While Dr. Taber does not support an organ market, he does believe we can do more to take care of our donors and in turn reduce the wait list.
"Rather than giving somebody $50,000 to do it and trying to buy kidneys we should take care of the donors that are doing it now, I think that we should take care of the $5,000 of whatever they’re out, they should also, I believe, have health care forever."
That idea is years down the road. However, Dr. Taber said there is one solution staring at us in the face right now: if more people gave organs through deceased donation, he said, the wait list would be gone.
For Korporal, someone’s gift changed her life. Even though she sits on that daunting wait list once again, she thinks if more people understood what that gift meant, that would be enough.
"How do you thank somebody who has ultimately given you the gift of life?" asked Korporal. "Organs are pretty valuable, you know, and I just feel like you can’t put a price on it."
For more information about donating, click here.