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  • There's some things money can't buy.

  • We don't like the idea of treating parts of the body as commodities.

  • As beautiful a sentiment as altruism is,

  • it just isn't enough.

  • People have two kidneys

  • situated on the back, behind the ribcage,

  • they look more or less like a bean.

  • And kidneys are organs that filter waste material from the blood

  • and process that into urine.

  • They're extremely important, because if your kidneys are failing,

  • you're collecting quite a bit of waste material

  • which is detrimental for all other organ systems.

  • A typical dialysis patient has a poorer life expectancy

  • than many cancers.

  • After decades of experimenting, in 1954 was the first

  • successful human transplant, which revolutionised the field.

  • My daughter was involved in a car accident.

  • It was clear that her injuries weren't survivable.

  • But Fi had let us know that, if anything had happened,

  • she would want to give her organs.

  • So when we arrived at the hospital and were given that devastating news,

  • this felt like something that we could all get behind

  • and for something positive to come out of such a sad time.

  • I mean what an incredible legacy.

  • Fi saved four people's lives on that day.

  • In 2006 I went for a regular check-up and I felt fine,

  • but the blood work that I got

  • showed that my kidneys were in very, very bad shape.

  • I had to either go on dialysis, hooked up to a machine

  • for three to four hours a day, about three times a week,

  • or I would have to try to find a donor.

  • Lots of people still don't know

  • that many people could actually donate a kidney.

  • Removing one kidney should not affect someone's lifespan.

  • And also should not affect someone's life quality.

  • A kidney from a living donor in general

  • will have a much better quality

  • because it comes from a healthy and tested person.

  • Kidneys are expected to survive up to twice as long on average

  • in the recipient.

  • I was lucky,

  • I had two people who were willing to sacrifice a body part to me.

  • It leaves you speechless with gratitude,

  • but it also leaves you speechless with sorrow and anger

  • that there are so many people

  • who don't have friends or relatives who can give them a kidney

  • and who die waiting for one to become available.

  • So that's how I became very interested

  • in our organ transplant system

  • and how we should change it.

  • No-one needs two kidneys,

  • and there are many desperate people who need one.

  • If they were compensated their lives could be improved

  • at little cost to their health,

  • while saving the life of someone else.

  • The idea is to offer people an in-kind benefit,

  • not cash,

  • but maybe loan forgiveness, or a tuition voucher,

  • or a contribution to their retirement account

  • in exchange for a kidney.

  • If I were a patient with failing kidneys,

  • and I faced a short and miserable life,

  • and I had the opportunity to buy a kidney,

  • and was assured that the donor was being properly compensated,

  • you bet I'd take that option.

  • Currently it's not allowed to donate a kidney

  • under any form of payment.

  • We rely on the goodwill of people to help others.

  • It's not the wealthy who would be wanting to sell their organs,

  • it's people who are on the poverty line,

  • in very desperate situations.

  • And those people are also the most vulnerable people

  • in terms of poor health in later life.

  • Incentivising people to donate more

  • is actually a way to starve black markets,

  • it's not to recreate them,

  • it's to undermine them.

  • If you reward a person amply for the sacrifice they've made,

  • something they go into with their eyes open and well informed,

  • that's not exploitation.

  • No-one really knows what will happen if you start doing this.

  • Because even though personally I'm not necessarily fully against it,

  • if it would drive people to donate,

  • but the effect could be that it all becomes a business transaction.

  • And that the more obvious donors

  • may not donate because they will tell the recipient,

  • "Oh, you can go and buy a kidney, right?"

  • It might actually reduce the number of people that want to donate,

  • because they don't want to be involved in such a scheme.

  • All of a sudden, transplantation becomes...

  • a thing that you can organise as long as you can pay for it.

  • People are dreaming to build kidneys in the laboratory,

  • bio-printed or 3D-printed organ structures,

  • modified pig organs,

  • so that's a revolution.

  • This is the only way to solve the problem.

  • It's so much needless death.

  • It feels like an incredible gift,

  • and I don't know how that gift can be quantified.

  • When we're considering this policy option,

  • most of us don't weigh the pros and cons,

  • but often we're offended at the very idea.

  • Selling kidneys is so immoral

  • I can only liken it to the woman who goes out on the street

  • and sells sex.

  • It's an example of a secular taboo.

  • In my view, the full potential of living donation

  • has not yet been achieved without using money.

  • Why are we not maximising deceased donation?

  • We don't talk about our wishes.

  • Research shows that most people would agree, after death,

  • to organ donation.

  • Yet we leave our loved ones wondering.

  • Ideally, we could change the law

  • but I would advocate that anyone consider donating, no matter what,

  • because, save dragging someone out of a burning building

  • or pulling them out of a frozen lake,

  • where else could you save someone's life

  • so palpably as this?

There's some things money can't buy.

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Should human kidneys be bought and sold? | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/11/18
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