The investigation involved 305 individuals in southern India who had sold a kidney an average of six years earlier for about $1000 apiece (about twice their annual family income). The study compared the sellers' current economic and health status with their economic and health status before they sold a kidney. The income of the sellers declined by one-third after selling a kidney, and 86 percent had a worsening of their health status.
Because nearly every country has a shortage of organs for transplantation, providing financial incentives to donate is often proposed or justified as a way to benefit recipients by increasing the supply of organs and to benefit donors by improving their economic status. In the United States, most organs for transplantation come from brain dead individuals whose families have consented to donate. Providing financial incentives such as payment for funeral expenses has been proposed as a way to increase the supply of organs.
In many developing countries such as India, most organs come from living donors, and the sale of kidneys is widespread. This practice is justified as a way to both increase the supply of kidneys for transplantation and to benefit the seller economically.
However, critics argue that purchasing kidneys amounts to exploitation of the poor and that the poor do not overcome poverty as a result of the sale.
The researchers, led by Madhav Goyal, M.D., from Geisinger Health System in State College, Pa., and Ashwini Sehgal, M.D., from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, sought to determine whether individuals who sell a kidney actually benefit from the sale.