Kidney Donors May Fear Economic Problems

Selfless organ donors may pay
the price; © NCI Visuals Online

While expenses for medical evaluation, surgery and hospital care are generally covered through public or private insurance, donors often foot the bill for other costs associated with the donation process, said Dr. Scott Klarenbach, a co-author on the study who is a nephrologist and health economist at the University of Alberta in Canada. "We found that living organ donors, through their altruistic act to improve the health of others, may experience substantial economic losses in a variety of cost categories," Klarenbach said.

Klarenbach and fellow researchers from the University of Western Ontario and McMaster University reviewed 35 relevant studies from twelve countries about costs incurred by people who donated kidneys between 1964 and 2003. It is the first such review to assemble and analyse quantitative data on the direct and indirect costs incurred by living kidney donors.

A U.S. study reported average costs of $837 per donor, and ranged from zero to $28,900. Travel and/or accommodation costs were incurred by nine to 99 per cent of the donors and were higher in countries with a larger land mass, such as Canada. The study also showed that 14 to 30 per cent of donors incurred costs for lost income, with an average loss of $3,386 in one study from the United Kingdom and $682 in a study from the Netherlands.

Studies from Australia and Germany showed that physical limitations following transplant surgery cost three per cent of donors their jobs by either being fired or resigning. As well, a U.S. study showed that over the long term donors were 37 per cent less likely than non-donors to have growth in household income. Due to the various shortcomings of existing studies, it is very likely that both the frequency and magnitude of the above costs are systematically underestimated, however, even relatively small costs may be a significant burden to those who donate, Klarenbach said.; Source: University of Alberta