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Last year, Singapore’s government, faced with an aging population and a shortage of human kidneys available for transplant, reconsidered its prohibition on the buying and selling of human kidneys. Only the second country to legalize such markets, Singapore is also attempting to stem the tide of illegal, back-alley organ sales that have become increasingly common in parts of Asia.
Under Singapore’s new scheme, those willing to donate kidneys will be paid anywhere from US$6,500 to $33,000 in order to compensate for medical expenses and time away from work. In Iran, the only other country where kidney sales are legal, donors are paid several thousand dollars by the recipient for their donation, or, if the recipient is poor, the payment comes from a charitable organization. The implementation of this program has eliminated the wait time for those in need of a kidney transplant in Iran.
While there’s not much danger of potential kidney recipients heading en masse to Iran for a transplant, it seems entirely plausible that people might travel to Singapore for such an operation. In the US, for example, it can take potential donees from five to ten years to obtain a healthy kidney, depending on where they live.
Until the buying and selling of kidneys is legalized in other parts of the world, Singapore may find that thousands of desperate kidney-seekers are willing to travel abroad for a new chance at life.