There's a chronic organ shortage in the United States, with demand wildly outstripping supply despite every attempt to increase the number of donors. The disturbing result, says bioethicist Sigrid Fry-Revere, is that people waiting for kidneys account for 84 percent of the waiting list and "20 to 30 people die every day" while waiting for a new kidney.
The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran is Fry-Revere's riveting account of a market for organs that works far better than the broken one we have in the United States. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran was cut off from Western organ-transplant networks and out of necessity began allowing donors to receive compensation. Now, despite political repression and economic malaise, Iran is essentially the only country in the world where there is a waiting list to give kidneys—and no waiting list to receive one. Although the donors receive payment, they also see themselves as acting charitably. Explains Fry-Revere: "Every single kidney seller I interviewed said, 'The money is important, it's what allows me to be altruistic.'" The Kidney Sellers is at once a deeply researched policy manifesto, a geo-political thriller, and an intense personal account. "Her subject matter may be somewhat controversial," notes Kirkus, "but her analysis is undeniably worth reading."
Fry-Revere is founder and president of the The Center for Ethical Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to "developing tools for patient empowerment." Reason TV's Nick Gillespie talked with her about her time in Iran and the continuing legal, philosophical, and cultural obstacles to developing effective solutions to America's kidney shortage.
About 6:45 minutes.
Camera by Amanda Winkler and Joshua Swain; edited by Swain.
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