Can I Sell an Organ?

More than 105,000 people in the U.S. are on a waiting list for a donated organ, but there are only about 15,000 donors each year. Thus, the high demand for organs creates an opportunity for those willing to sell a spare kidney, the lobe of a lung, or even the organs of the deceased. However, it is strictly illegal to sell an organ, in accordance with federal law.

The National Organ Transplant Act

Under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 (NOTA), any individual convicted of buying or selling human organs faces a five-year prison sentence and/or a hefty fine. Since the language of the law explicitly states that it is a crime for an individual to "knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer" a human organ, it allows safe harbor for those who unknowingly receive an illegally procured organ.

But, while you may not profit from donating an organ, you may have some of your expenses related to the donation procedure reimbursed. For example, you may claim medical costs and missed pay following the donation of an organ. Different states calculate such payments differently, but anything considered to be unreasonable will not be reimbursed. Specifically, the law states, payment of "expenses of travel, housing, and lost wages incurred by the donor of a human organ in connection with the donation of the organ" is permitted.

However, living donors (those donating a single kidney or a portion of an organ) may not be reimbursed for some of the associated post-operative costs. Also, living donors may experience difficulty maintaining affordable health insurance coverage after such a procedure. Most transplant centers offer the assistance of financial coordinators to help with insurance and related issues.

Some states offer additional reimbursement to the families of deceased organ donors.

In sum, while you cannot sell an organ, you may be fairly compensated for some costs related to your donation. See FindLaw's Health Care Law section for related articles and resources.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified health care attorney to help navigate legal issues around your health care.

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