Kidney donations have been in decline and a study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) says it has discovered why; it's cheaper to get a kidney than to give one.
For their study, Jagbir Gill, MD, MPH of University of British Columbia in Vancouver and his colleagues divided the US population based on the median household income level of residents' zip codes, and they examined the rates of living donation between 1999 and 2010 in high and low income populations.
The researchers found that lower income populations consistently had lower rates of living donation compared with higher income populations. Most striking, however, was the finding that the difference in living donation rates between lower and higher income populations was much larger in recent years than it was in the past.
"Since 2004, lower income populations experienced a large decline in living donation, while living donation in higher income populations was more stable," said Dr. Gill. "These results suggest that financial barriers to living donation need to be further addressed in order to make it easier for patients to consider and pursue living kidney donation."
Beyond the obvious benefits of improved survival and quality of life for transplant patients, each living kidney donation is estimated to result in a net health care savings of $100,000. There are considerable financial costs to donating a kidney, though, with an average estimated cost of $5000 and some reports citing costs as high as $20,000.