How Much Is a Kidney Worth? And a Plea for Donors
by Virginia Postrel • Jul 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for illegally brokering sales of kidneys. He will also forfeit $420,000 in profit. It's the first case ever brought under the 1984 act outlawing the exchange of "valuable consideration" for organs.
Rosenbaum, who was caught in a sting as part of a broader corruption probe, may be the generous life-saver his supporters maintain. He may be the venial money-grubber portrayed by prosecutors. Or, like the donors who took money for their kidneys, he may be something in between.
But one thing's for sure: While it lasted, his organ business was highly profitable -- a textbook example of how prohibition produces extraordinary margins for people willing to buck the law.
In one case, a family paid Rosenbaum $150,000 for a kidney from a man who got only $25,000 for his organ. That $125,000 profit represents a lot more than a finder's fee. It's a reward for breaking the law -- for bearing the risk of going to prison and knowing how to circumvent the system. Those figures also establish upper and lower bounds for the market-clearing price of kidneys, not in some impoverished country with desperate people and questionable medical procedures but in state-of-the-art U.S. transplant centers.
Read the rest at Bloomberg View.
Since there isn't a market for kidneys, people who don't have compatible family or friends have to go out and beg strangers for help. Back in 2007, I wrote about Karol Franks's successful networking to find her daughter Jenna a kidney. Now Jenna's donated kidney is failing, and, at age 26, she's facing a return to dialysis. Karol has set up a Facebook page to try to find another Type O donor for Jenna.
Comment on this item
Buy Virginia's Books
Copyright 2013 Virginia Postrel. All commercial rights reserved.