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To sell or not to sell kidneys

Dear Mr. Berko: My wife and I together were making $88,000 to $110,000 per year between 1996 and 2007 and were able to save almost $50,000 during that time, even with two kids. So in late 2006, we bought a home for $261,000, put down $31,000 plus closing costs and took a $230,000 mortgage at 7 percent. Our payments, principle, interest, taxes and insurance came to almost $2,000 per month. Well, in early 2008, we both lost our jobs, went through all our savings and last March we had to declare bankruptcy.

A cousin in Kansas offered me a decent job, but we need about $4,500 to move to Overland Park and, except for our unemployment and odd jobs that we both have, we are living hand to mouth. The lawyer who handled our bankruptcy suggested that we could make $16,000 if each of us would donate a kidney to a private organ-donor pool. He said all expenses would be taken care of and we would walk away with $16,000 and maybe even a little bit more.

This may be a saving grace for us. We understand the complications and the risks, but we don’t seem to have any choice because we are in dire circumstances. So we’d like to know what a pair of healthy kidneys would be worth. Should we ask for more, or is $16,000 a fair number?

This is embarrassing to us, and we don’t know anyone to ask. You wrote once that you knew some doctors very well. Could you ask one of them what he thinks a kidney sells for? Please tell us as soon as you can, because we are living hand to mouth. Do not use our names. Thank you and sign us “Help in Florida.”

Dear Help in Florida: Wow, I kinda feel like an associate of Dr. Kevorkian. I know a couple of doctors, none of whom knows what a kidney is worth, has ever bought one, has ever sold one or has ever installed one. But I was referred to a nephrologist, who told me that selling two kidneys for $8,000 each is like selling an ounce of gold for $150.

“A healthy kidney,” he says, “is worth a minimum of $40,000 or more if a recipient needs one badly enough.”

And, wow, your lawyer was either a past member of Congress or poured from a colostomy bag when he was born. There are many ways to make money, but this maggot has set a new standard for avarice and disgust.

Now a lawyer I know (my daughter; we often chat about unusual dilemmas) tells me that the National Organ Transplant Act of l984 makes this commerce illegal. I’m sure your lawyer knows this. Still he has almost no liability, makes an easy $60,000, and you take all the risk. My daughter knows of your counsel and says his office is located in a unique area of the great city of Miami where money is god and lawyers have judges, cops, politicians and other public officials on their monthly payrolls.

Aside from ethical considerations, there are good reasons to ban the payment for organs. And for ethical reasons there are good reasons to allow the sale and subsequent purchase of human organs. But this is not a venue for that discussion. And I will not give you “yes or no” advice, so thank you for not asking for it.

But I would suggest before you enter into an agreement to have this procedure that you visit with a clergyman, whose name I have given you, and discuss this with him. He may even advise you to report this scam and assist you in raising the money you need. And oftentimes, this information could result in a federal bounty. But under no circumstances should you report this to the state authorities. Florida is one of the most politically crooked states in the nation.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com.

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