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Kidney donors do not realize financial gains

Western researchers have indicated that those who are altruistic enough to donate a kidney to bail out another person actually stand to gain little, financially.//

Co-author Scott Klarenbach, a nephrologist and health economist at the University of Alberta, along with fellow researchers from Western and McMaster University, reviewed 35 relevant studies from 12 countries about costs incurred by people who donated kidneys between 1964 and 2003.

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.

"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," says Klarenbach.

The study, which appears in the July issue of Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, is the first such review to assemble and analyze quantitative data on the direct and indirect costs incurred by living kidney donors. The research revealed that while no one study had a complete tally of expenses, many types of costs attributable to kidney donation were incurred.

Due to the nature of the existing literature, a composite tally was not possible. However, costs incurred by donors were common. For example, 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 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 physical limitations following transplant surgery cost three per cent of donors t heir jobs by either being fired or resigning. As well, a U.S. study showed 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, says Klarenbach, adding even relatively small costs may be a significant burden to those who donate, and may be a disincentive to potential donors.

"This information is needed to properly inform and protect potential donors and to assist in guiding donor reimbursement policies, which are being considered in several countries," he says.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Council supported the study for Donation and Transplantation.

Source : Eureka Alert


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