Selling your organs and other body parts is illegal but it does beg the question; how much could you get for your various bits if it wasn’t? Inspired by this post written by Brian, I decided to try and find out. I’ve only included the parts which could be donated by the living, as you couldn’t exactly profit from donating your own heart…
The most common organ to be transplanted, it’s estimated that 3 patients still die each day while waiting for a donor kidney because of a shortage of willing donors. It’s perfectly possible to live a long and healthy life after donating a kidney.
Interestingly, in Iran where selling kidneys for profit is legal, the waiting list for transplants is non-existent.
Payouts vary; kidneys can be sold for anything between $20,000 and $80,000, although as the donor you could expect to receive just a portion of that, with the rest going to cover surgical fees and other expenses. After deductions, you’d be looking at a profit of up to $10,000.
The second most common transplanted body part, the cornea has a high success rate because of the lack of blood vessels. Corneas are the clear lens across the front of the eye and are necessary for vision. Most corneas are harvested from cadavers but it is possible, if you want to live with the sight of just one eye, to be a living donor.
The major exporter of corneas is Brazil and the practice reportedly doesn’t pay too well. Donors can typically expect around $7,000 and a loss of depth perception for their trouble.
Obviously you can’t donate your whole liver and expect to carry on living! However partial donations are possible, albeit risky. Surgeons will, wherever possible, remove the left lobe as there are fewer complications involved than with removal of the right lobe.
Apparently, liver donors could get up to $150,000, but you’d be risking hefty fines and jail time if you got caught. And prison isn’t really the ideal place to recover from liver surgery!
The lung is another organ for which a partial donation is possible, with the right lung preferred as it avoids the need to manoeuvre around the donor’s heart. Complications can include fluid around the lungs, spitting up blood and non-productive coughs. Needless to say, being a living lung donor requires careful consideration.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it was hard to find out a definite price for a lung donation! However I did manage to find one site which estimates the worth of a human lung as being anything up to $116,000. Presumably that’s for a full lung, which would be much harder to part with than a partial one if you planned on living a good life with the money you’d earn…
Donating blood and plasma for compensation is legal in the US. It’s the simplest form of donation and you can earn between $20 and $40 each time you give blood. It’s recommended that you don’t donate too often, although guidelines do vary: in the UK you can only give blood every 16 weeks, whereas in the US a gap of 54 days is recommended.
Plasma, the substance which carries vitamins through your bloodstream, can be donated at the same time or in a separate donation. Unlike blood, plasma can be donated up to twice a week, with donors getting paid roughly $20-$25 for the first session and $30-$45 for the second.
Next to blood and sperm, this is perhaps the simplest of all the body parts to donate, and donors report a fast recovery time of just 5 days while their body regenerates the marrow.
Originally classified as an organ, it’s technically illegal to receive financial reward for donating marrow. However, a new ruling passed in December 2011 states that some donors can now receive cash for their marrow; depending on the amount taken this could be anywhere from $125 to $450.
Donating sperm is not as simple as walking into a clinic, ‘doing your stuff’ to some girly mags and trotting out, cash in hand. A donor needs to fit certain very specific criteria regarding height, colouring and education level, then provide a sample to check the quality of the ‘swimmers’. If the candidate gets accepted to become a regular donor, he will need to commit to a minimum 6 months contract, making one or two deposits each week.
Depending on the clinic, you could be paid between $35-$50 per deposit…but you don’t get the cash right away. Instead, the clinic ‘freezes your assets’ – as it were – and holds onto the money until 6 months after your contract finishes, and then you only get the money if your swimmers are still healthy after defrosting.
Women can donate their eggs, or ova, but the procedure obviously isn’t as simple! Egg donation involves injecting yourself with a stimulant hormone to boost egg production prior to them being harvested from your ovaries.
The compensation an egg donor receives varies greatly between countries. In the US the going rate can be anywhere from $2,000-$10,000, whereas in the UK the maximum a donor can currently get paid is £250 (a little less than $390). However this sum is under review and may be increased in the near future.
To sum up (taking the highest values found):
Blood $240 per year for blood
Plasma $3640 assuming 2 donations every week for a year
Bone Marrow $450
Sperm $2600 assuming 2 deposits per week for 6 months
Total worth (men) $289,930
Total worth (women) $297,330
As far as debt management goes, selling your body probably isn’t the most ethical way to do it, but it’s comforting to know that you’re worth so much!
Written by Louise Tillotson from MoneySupermarket, a price comparison site in the UK. No, we don’t compare body parts!