119) Kidneys for Sale!

March 31, 2007

El Milagro:
Today I get here at 2:15 or so; late for my 2:00 pm chair time. Carol got me ready for sticking but Herman stuck me today, for some unknown reason. I told him that they were adding sodium and that I didn’t really understand it, and he said, “The only thing you have to remember is that sodium attracts fluid.” Further, he explained that when they add sodium to your blood the process of it attracting water pulls the fluid into the blood stream, which builds pressure, which raises your blood pressure. When people’s BP goes way low they can quickly raise it by adding sodium. This is the same logic behind limiting sodium when people have high blood pressure… because it attracts fluid which increase the pressure. Okay. Now I get it. In exchange, I told Herman about adding lots of sodium (salt) to a glass of ice water at restaurants, and then stirring it furiously to freeze the glass to the table so the waitress spills it when picking it up. He laughed and said he’d like to try that trick.

I was surfing through the channels and found a movie about 1965 high school seniors in turmoil (There Goes My Baby) with lots of great hot rods and music. This movie is a 3-year later version of American Graffiti and one of the subplots has to do with a girl trying to decide to go away to college or stay in LA. After that shot of nostalgia I surfed on into the home repair / cooking channels and settled on a show (Sell This House) about fixing up your house (house staging) to sell… pretty interesting quick fixes on a budget even I could agree with.

And then the news was on (ABC), and right towards the end there was a story that I got the staff to listen to. The head doc of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons* wants the country to start BUYING kidneys! That’s right folks! Step right up and sell your healthy kidney to one of the 70,000 people who need one. All we need to do is to legislate it, and then regulate it, and then make sure the insurance companies don’t make too much profit. And, more importantly, we have to ensure all healthy people are offered the same opportunity to sell a kidney, and that all are evaluated medically and psychologically in the same ways before being accepted into such a program. Creating this type of program would put the unethical kidney transplant industry in S.E. Asia and S. America out of business, I would think.

Oh? Am I for it? I would have to say, “Sure”, based on my sense of self-preservation. Ostensibly it would be easier for me to find someone willing to sell their kidney for $60 K than it has been finding someone to give me one of theirs out of altruism. I will have to consider for a time my thoughts on the ethics of such a practice. On the surface of my brain is this notion: as a believer in a woman’s right to abortion, I would have to say that it seems a similar idea that a person has a right to sell a part of their body if it suits them. With the state of the US economy right now, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would like 60 K to buy a house, pay off their debt, send a kid to college. Most of the ethical arguments against might come from the ruling class whose interests are social control, puritan values, and keeping the non-dominant culture in it's place. I'm looking for a comment from Hansie again, it seems. But also, dear readers, put in your 2 cents on this issue / question. Is it ethical to purchase kidneys for transplanting into the 70,000 people awaiting them rather than using our current system, which allows 6000 a year to die waiting for one? I am looking forward to your comments and thoughts on this.

Change Subject: And, last but not least, I must add that yesterday was Liz’s and my anniversary and we went to Jeffrey’s** to eat, which we do every year or so because it’s our favorite restaurant. Well, I had these crispy oysters on yucca root chips with habanero sauce that were to die for. They came on an elegant foot long by 4” wide white rectangular plate; all lined up like a string of Caribbean islands. Really. It was like flying over those islands that just pop straight up out of the sea. The chip had a fried oyster on it and the fried oyster had a bright lime green sauce with bits of pico de gallo sprinkled on top. The texture was crunchy, the taste was like a Havana + Juarez + San Antonio mix of spice and smooth enveloping a delicately fried oyster. Even this description doesn’t do it justice. But Liz agreed they looked like little islands on a sea of white porcelain. The whole evening was a wonderful anniversary celebration.

Notes: In at 74.2 and out at 72.7 Kgs. Standing BP at the end was 110/65.
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* McKenzie, J. People Can Sell Sperm; Why Not Kidneys? Retrieved online March 31st from
** Jeffrey’s of Austin, retrieved online from


Anonymous said...

Dear Jack: I am troubled at opening the option of purchasing kidneys as it reinforces a two-tiered medical system where those with money get the organ. Medical care in the US is uneven (at best) now and this option only makes it worse. Not only does it aggravate the disparities, it diminishes a rationale methodology for distributing scarce resources. Who is to say, then, that the person most suited to receiving an organ is the one who gets it? Granted that some well-suited people do not get an organ because of the scarcity but adding money to the picture is not the answer. Cecilia

Anonymous said...

This is a tough issue. After reading the pro & con articles, I think the best solution would be a macro effort to pass presumed consent legislation to increase the availability of donations, since Sheehy et al. (1) found that “lack of consent to a request for donation was the primary cause of the gap between the number of potential donors and the number of actual donors.” Public education on the need for donations coupled with an opt-out clause for those opposed to donation (for whatever reason) would seem to me to be the most ethical way to begin to move society toward resolving this dilemma. With consent presumed for organ donation, medical facilities would be able to justify casting a wider net to harvest donations and the numbers of available organs (not just kidneys) should go up. Marketing the idea that organ donation is the right thing to do for our fellow man has more appeal to me than adding money into the process.
Thanks for the chance to think about this.

Anonymous said...

I still don't know what blood type I am, but when I first heard about your situation I said "I would give that man a kidney!" And I don't see anything wrong with buying one. It's better than stealing one :)