Friday, February 12, 2010

Which Organs Can I Live Without, and How Much Cash Can I Get for Them?


Selling your organs in the United States is illegal, not to mention extremely dangerous. Handing off an organ is risky enough when done in a top hospital, even more so if you’re doing it for cash in a back alley.

If you need cash, it's honestly safer and smarter to sell crack cocaine, which is by far the worst job in America.  

With Repo Men coming out in March and Turistas getting on regular play on Cinemax, I've become more and more intrigued by the mysterious world of organ trafficking.  Fortunately, Bjorn Carey of Popular Science has already done some research and has uncovered some startling results.  

In theory, there are some organs that one can live without, or for which there's a backup.  You can spare a kidney, a portion of their liver, a lung, some intestines, and an eyeball, and still live a long life. That said, donating a lung, a piece of liver, or a section of intestines is a very complicated surgery so it’s not done frequently on the black market.

Obviously there are no tax filings for the black market organ trade, but here are some prices based on rumored deals and reports from the World Heath Organization.  In India, a kidney fetches around $20,000.  In China, buyers will pay $40,000 or more.  But a good, healthy kidney from Israel goes for $160,000.

Unfortunately, you don't get to pocket all that dough, though.  “The person giving up the organ only gets a fraction of the fee,” says Sally Satel, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute think tank who studies the prices paid by legal and illegal organ-donor operations.

After the organ broker takes his cut, he needs to pay for travel, the surgeon, medical supplies and a few “look-the-other-way” payoffs. Most people get $1,000 to $10,000 for their kidney (probably much less than you were hoping for).

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