Gifting an Organ Can Be Costly. Would a Tax Break Cross a Moral Line?
By Jason Feifer
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 20, 2007; Page HE01
Before Michael Friedberg donated a kidney to his wife last year, he underwent multiple tests and battled the usual jitters. Then he took one other step: He refinanced the family's home.
Friedberg, 60, works as an auto mechanic in Bladensburg, and he's paid on commission. Lifting heavy car parts soon after the surgery would be impossible, so he wanted to prepare for a drought of income by reducing his mortgage payments. The drought came: After the operation, he was out of work for two months and lost about $14,000 in wages.
I didn't have a choice," he said. "It was that or my wife was going to die. The waiting list was, at that time, like eight years to get a kidney."
There were 6,196 living-organ donors last year, and Friedberg wasn't alone in his financial losses. The recipient's health insurance typically pays for the donor's medical costs such as the surgery and various pre- and post-op tests, but donors are on their own for the rest: travel expenses for the numerous trips to the hospital, nearby hotel rooms before and after procedures and wages lost while they recuperate.
Transplant advocates fear those costs are a deterrent to donating, and so have been searching for ways to compensate living donors, who can give kidneys, bone marrow and a few other body parts. But by doing so, they're inching up on a loaded question: Is it morally wrong to pay people for their organs -- or at least for some of the costs incurred in gifting them? Read the full article.
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