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Where Is It Legal to Sell a Kidney?

Published Jun 13, 2020
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Donating a kidney is one of the most altruistic acts one person can do for another, but should the donor be compensated in a more tangible way? According to a recent Johns Hopkins survey, 46 percent of Americans favor some form of compensation for kidney donors. However, such payments are outlawed in every nation except Iran.

Between 1993 and 2017, more than 30,000 Iranians were each paid the equivalent of $4,600 USD for their kidney donation. The system is government-run and attempts to match those in need with those willing to go under the knife. But the Los Angeles Times says there are some serious faults in the system, including wealthy Iranians willing to pay much more to donors in a private process that allows them to skip the waiting line.

There's also the issue of foreigners who use fake IDs in the hopes of getting a kidney from an Iranian. While some argue that the system allows needy individuals to earn some money in a country hard hit by economic difficulties, others counter that donating an organ for profit doesn't pay off in the end.

"When you are that hopeless, giving that person a lump of money while lowering their self-esteem at the same time doesn’t help them," Gabriel Danovitch, director of the kidney transplant program at UCLA, told the Los Angeles Times, "It’s an act of desperation, not an act of love."

Kidney donation facts and figures:

  • About 95 percent of kidney donors are released from the hospital a day after their surgery and return to normal activities within two to three weeks.

  • In the United States alone, there are more than 100,000 people in need of a kidney donation.

  • The median wait time for a first-time kidney donation in the United States is 3.6 years.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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