As the federal government offers $3,000 to anyone willing get the flu, we look at the going rates for other fluids and parts
Last modified on Wed 20 Sep 2017 15.22 EDT
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
This past week, Heather Long, assistant editor of Comment is Free, asked our readers if they would be willing to get the flu for $3,000. An informal poll of our co-workers suggested that they would not reject the idea out of hand. After all, money is money, and when you’re short on it, suffering through nine days of a flu for $3,000 sounds like a good deal – if you’re young and in good health. You’re likely to get the flu anyway, so why not be compensated for it and help out medical research?
That got us thinking – why stop at the flu? The internet has long provided an active “grey market” for the rent and sale of bodily fluids and parts. In October, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that when one types “I want to sell my” into the Google search bar, the top four autofill suggestions are “hair”, “eggs” and “kidney”.
We left out the kidneys. We don’t want to encourage it.
If you’re curious, however, here is a full, internet-based price list for some of the more popular bodily items for sale.
That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not easily earned. For one thing, egg donors usually have to be young and healthy. The process usually takes a number of weeks and requires a series of doctor visits as well as daily intake of hormone stimulants. The eggs are then extracted during an out-patient procedure. Most donors feel that the $8,000 is fully earned, according to NYU Livewire.
Many donors also donate their eggs more than once. If donating with Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York (RMA of New York), donors can donate up to six times in their lifetime.
But it is counted as income: according to New York State Department of Health, the IRS does request that you pay taxes on anything you earn from egg donation.
Sperm donation, an unregulated business, has launched many an (impoverished?) Hollywood screenwriter’s dream. First, there was Joey on Friends, who often relied on sperm donation to make ends meet. Then there was Mark Ruffalo in The Kids are All Right and Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man.
There’s a reason for that. Good sperm has benefitted from increasing demand, particularly if you’re Danish. It’s also easy to donate, frequently. Men can donate as often as two or three times a week, earning up to $1,200 a month.
It doesn’t come without strings, however: California donors who earn over $600 a year are required to pay taxes on their earnings from sperm donation. Also, be careful: in the end you might be called on to pay child support for the children that your little swimmers have created.
Surrogacy – carrying someone else’s baby for nine months – is controversial, often deeply emotional, and complicated. It involves nine months of hospital visits and a deep and regular connection with couples struggling with infertility. The benefit to some is the money, and to others, it’s a chance to help someone else have a baby.
It’s also not allowed everywhere. In DC and New York, paying for surrogates is illegal. There are other states where courts will not enforce surrogacy contracts if the surrogate changes her mind after the birth. These are the “proceed at your own risk surrogacy” states.
The FDA actually forbids monetary compensation for donating blood. The thinking behind that is that blood given by volunteers is much more likely to be safer. So, rather than offering payment, blood drives can give out rewards such as T-Shirts or CDs.
You can’t keep the capitalism out entirely, however. Incentives, like gift cards, can increase the likelihood of donations, researchers have found. And you can donate blood for money – although liability laws prevent hospitals from using blood that has been paid for.
They found that an advertised offer of a $5 gift card increased the likelihood of giving among people with a history of donating by 26%, and a $10 gift card produced a 52% rise.
Plasma, the yellowish liquid that has to be separated from blood, is far more valuable than the blood itself. According to DonatingPlasma.org, plasma is used to treat rare, chronic diseases. While many donate plasma for free, there are few organizations that offer compensation for their donations.
For example, CSL Plasma is making donating plasma into a consumer experience. Not only does donating your plasma come with monetary compensation, but they will automatically load donation payments onto pre-paid cards. CSL Plasma donors also accrue rewards points that can later be redeemed.
As a rule, it’s illegal to sell or purchase organs within the US, a rule came about to prevent wealthy from purchasing organs from their limited supply.
A federal court ruled, however, that paying for bone marrow donations is allowed in nine states covered by the ninth circuit court. If you wish to donate bone marrow in return for the payment, you might do so with MoreMarrowDonors.org, which has a fund that finances the payments in the form of a scholarship, charity gift or home payment, according to The Denver Post. Take note that bone marrow donation can be painful and requires hospital visits.
Mothers who make more milk than their baby needs have taken to the internet … and are actually making money. Some women have been known to make as much as $20,000 a year selling breast milk, or as they call it, “pumping for profit”. Most often this is done through sites like OnlyTheBreast.com and their breast milk classifieds. Before you purchase any milk, beware. Research has shown that 74% of breast milk purchased online is contaminated with bacteria, and there have been calls for regulation.
Price: We are not actually sure what the current going price for placenta is.
Apparently, human placenta is the hottest body part on the market. According to New York Magazine, the placenta can be cooked by professional placenta preparers (which exist) and encapsulated into pills. Some women have been known to consume pills themselves while others mix the powder into things like Bloody Mary.
If you have any doubt about the demand for hair, just look the rise in thefts of hair extension and the ubiquity of the hair black market. In 2011, a hair salon in Texas was robbed of $150,000 worth of real hair. Two weeks ago, another Chicago hair salon saw its inventory raided during a robbery.
There are premiums for long hair and hair that isn’t dyed or processed. Those looking to sell their hair can do so by posting an ad on Hairwork.com. The site gets about 20-30 ads a month, Marlys Fladeland, who runs the site, told Marketplace.
If you’re not into the cash, you can also donate your hair to charities like Locks of Love that help sick, disadvantaged children.