Selling a Kidney to Escape Desperate Poverty Does Not Suceed, JAMA Study Finds

October 5, 2002) People in southern India who hoped to escape poverty by selling a kidney were usually worse off financially and less healthy after surgery, a study published in the October 2, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

The study by Madhav Goyal and others found that a majority of donors were women and that at least some were forced by their husbands to sell their kidneys.

Goyal and his colleagues interviewed 305 kidney donors in the city of Chennai. Ninety-six percent sold their kidneys to pay off debt; 5 percent said the desire to help someone with a diseased kidney influenced their decision, according to their a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Donors were promised an average of $1,410 for a kidney but received an average of $1,070. Some were paid as little as $450. The average family income of donors dropped from $660 at the time of the operation to $420 at the time of the survey, mainly because of the health consequences. Of the 292 who sold a kidney to pay off debts, 216 still had debts at the time of the survey. The study concluded that physicians and policy makers should reexamine the value of using financial incentives to increase the supply of organs for transplantation.