Accessibility links

Breaking News

Transplant Doctor Argues in Favor of Kidney Sales

Kidney sales are legal in Iran, and they take place in other countries where they are technically against the law. Now, a prominent American surgeon advocates making kidney sales legal in the United States. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Dominick Lawson is two years old. He was born with defective kidneys. So every 48 hours his mother, Kelly Lawson, brings him to the hospital for kidney dialysis. "As long as I'm sitting here, I'll search the globe to try to find him a kidney,” she says, holding back tears.

Dominick is on a waiting list for a donated kidney, but the average wait is so long that many people die while they are on the waiting list. Some doctors say a drastic remedy is required.

Dr. Arthur Matas is a former president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. He says, "It sounds like the wrong thing to do, to be buying kidneys, until you start realizing that unless we do something dramatic, we're going to have a continuation of this situation where patients are dying on dialysis and their quality of life is worse."

But the U.S. government and major medical organizations, including the National Kidney Foundation, are against the sale of kidneys. Another prominent surgeon, Dr. Gabriel Danovitch, explains. "If kidney sales were allowed in the United States, the sellers would be the most vulnerable among us, who would probably be desperate for money, who may be willing not to tell the truth about their medical histories or the donated kidney."

One thing transplant surgeons agree on is the need. Dr. Dorey Segev works at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. "More and more people are developing kidney failure and more and more people are becoming candidates for a transplant," says the doctor.

Dr. Matas says the federal government should regulate the sales and require sellers to get complete physical and psychological evaluations before any procedure, and then, get follow up care afterwards. He argues it is legal to buy and sell human blood, eggs and sperm in the U.S., so why not include kidneys?

By his calculations, a kidney transplant saves the expense of dialysis and long-term medical costs. "The only way that we will know whether or not such a system will work is to try a pilot project," proposes Dr. Matas.

Right now there is little support to change the law and make kidney sales legal in the U.S., but Dr. Matas keeps pushing for continued discussion and research that might save thousands of lives.