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If you’re desperate for cash, you may have considered selling some of your extraneous body parts. In some ways, I’m glad there isn’t much of a market for this. If there were, in desperate times, people may be more than willing to carve up their own body — or someone else’s without consent — in order to sell an organ, such as a kidney, in order to afford food for another day.
Long waiting lists for organ donations is a problem that shouldn’t exist, however. I know someone suffering from polycycstic kidney disease (PKD) who waited years before receiving a transplant; other patients may not be as lucky. He might have been willing to pay in a legal market for speedier treatment. In the United States, this would be illegal, and if there is a black market, it’s not big enough to have an overall effect on the economics of health care.
For those who need the money, there are other options for selling your body or parts of it.
Men know that their sperm can earn money, but only for those who make the cut. If you have trouble in the dating scene, forget about becoming a sperm donor. Even those of us with great personality can get turned away from the clinic. Only about 5% of potential donors are accepted. Your chances are better if you’re six feet tall, have blue eyes, a college education, and dimples. Those who are accepted could potentially earn more than $1,000 a month. That’s a job.
2. Egg (ovum)
The female equivalent of selling potential reproduction is the egg. For all the talk about income equality between the sexes, women have quite an advantage here; a coveted donation — and egg donors are highly in demand, and also selective — could earn a donor up to $10,000. It’s not only the demand that increases the payment; the donor must go through a process of hormone injections and other procedures which could be life-threatening.
3. Clinical trials
You could earn up to $1,000 for participating in a drug trials or other clinical trials. Pharmaceutical companies often need volunteers to test drugs or other treatments for a variety of conditions. The risk of side effects varies, so anyone thinking about this form of earning money must take that into consideration.
It’s common to donate hair to organizations that provide wigs to young cancer patients, such as Locks of Love. There are organizations that will pay certain donors for their hair, particularly those who do not treat their hair with any damaging chemicals like dyes. This isn’t a lucrative endeavor, with most buyers paying $5 an ounce. The weight of hair varies from one individual to the next, but it’s unlikely anyone can produce more than eight ounces of hair each year.
Unlike eggs and sperm, plasma doesn’t discriminate against unattractive or unintelligent people. All you need to be is over 18 years old, weigh at least 100 pounds, and be healthy. Repeat donors can earn $55 a week, and the process only requires being connected to a plasma pump.
If you were thinking about putting one of your body parts on eBay and selling to the highest bidder, forget about it. It’s against the auction site’s terms of service.
In general, I don’t like the idea of trading any part of my body for money. It’s hard to say what I would do in a desperate situation.
Published or updated December 1, 2010.