I recently wrote about my latest plan for averting financial disaster by selling one of the two vital organs currently processing urine and regulating electrolytes and homeostatic function on each side of my abdomen. After all, in these times, we all need to find ways to cut back. Of course, I wasn't entirely serious about the idea, although by the end of my conversation with Dr. Sally Satel, herself the recipient of a donated kidney and a leading expert on the flaws in the country's organ donor system, I was definitely giving the idea more thought. Satel and I surmised from several recent news events that many more white-collar unemployed might be feeling the same way, if they hadn't hocked a kidney already.

Well, we're no longer surmising. Despite the five-year prison sentence that such a transaction could carry should the authorities catch wind of it, more than two dozen readers wrote in brazenly offering a spare kidney for sale. Prices ranged from $250,000 down to one offer of "$65,000.00 cash! plus all expenses -- I'd hop on the table so fast."
Perhaps even more impressive, though, were the eight emails that Satel personally received from people soliciting her help finding a buyer. "They absolutely were serious," said Satel. "And they seemed completely sane."

Satel sent me a few of the emails. "I live paycheck to paycheck right now and just can't seem to get my head above water. If I could get a lump sump cash payment for an organ, I would jump at the opportunity," wrote one man. "If I could pay off my debts and improve my quality of life dramatically as I wouldn't be stressed 24/7 wondering how I'm going to pay this month's rent and bills."

"Recently we had a baby with severe complications," wrote a young mother of two. "The reason I am telling you this story is because while this was happening, we spent everything we had in savings, pulled money from retirement, etc, to allow me to pay for daycare so I could spent time in the hospital. I would SERIOUSLY consider donating to someone who may die without it if it meant it helped save them and helped my situation also."

Satel, a practicing psychiatrist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said, tempted as she is, she'd have to decline actually helping these people in their search. "I really can't," she said.

On the other hand, she is helping a friend who is researching the legality of starting a website that would connect the tens of thousands of Americans desperate for a kidney with the suddenly seemingly bottomless supply of those desperate to give one up, for the right price. "She wouldn't be taking a cent for providing this service," Satel said, "just providing a place for people with mutual interests to meet."

If the response to my earlier post is any indication, the website should get a lot of traffic.


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