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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - October 14, 2002: Selling Kidneys - 2002-10-11

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Kidneys are important organs in the human body. Under normal conditions, the body can perform with just one kidney, even though most people are born with two. Many people develop kidney disease and their kidneys do not operate normally. Some of these people are able to get a new kidney in a transplant operation. However, many countries do not have enough kidneys for transplantation.

In developing countries, some poor people sell their kidneys to earn money and improve their living conditions. Researchers say this is becoming a problem. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who sold a kidney suffered financial and health problems over time.

Doctors carried out the study last year in southern India. Madhav (MA-thev) Goyal of the Geisinger Health System in State College, Pennsylvania headed the study. He wanted to learn the economic and health effects of selling a kidney. The researchers questioned about three-hundred poor people in the city of Chennai (chen-NIGH). Each person had sold his or her kidney about six years earlier for about one-thousand dollars.

Almost all of the people sold their kidneys to pay back money they owed. However, six years later, seventy-five percent of the people said they were still in debt. The average family earnings had dropped by one-third following the operation.

Also, eighty-six percent of the people said their health had worsened since the operation. Doctor Goyal says one possible reason for this is that most of the people had to continue physically difficult work immediately after their operations. This probably weakened their health.

The researchers said almost seventy-five percent of the kidney donors were women. Doctor Goyal says this is troubling because women in India may be pressured to sell their organs more than men. Finally, the researchers found that almost eighty percent of the people would not suggest that others sell a kidney for money.

Most countries, including India, have laws against buying and selling organs from living donors. But in India officials at hospitals often fail to enforce the laws. Doctor Goyal says policy makers should re-examine the value of using money to increase the supply of organs for transplantation.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.