Need to pay off your student loans? Sell a kidney!

My youngest sister was born with a debilitating liver condition. After a few operations and a brief period in which my mother collected her bile and kept it in the fridge (bile, by the way, looks an awful lot like limeade), Ella was put back together. Now, 24 years later, she is still going strong.

In the process of taking care of Ella, my mother ended up learning about all the resources that were available to parents of children with liver disease. She began working for liver groups and ultimately formed a nonprofit group of her own. This meant that much of my childhood and adolescence was spent staffing health fairs, attending nonprofit events, passing out organ donor cards, going door-to-door, and selling things to raise money. In fact, my sisters and I even collected and traded organ donor cards from different organizations. Along with my "Spastic Colon" t-shirt, organ donor cards were the best part of the gastroenterology conventions that we had to go to with fair regularity.

The problem with transplantation is that there simply aren't enough organs out there. Around the world, people are waiting on transplant lists for the hearts, lungs, livers, and other vitals that they desperately need. Unfortunately, most people are still uncomfortable with the idea of giving up their organs, often out of a belief that their organ donor status will be used as a consideration when it comes to giving them medical care. This, of course, hasn't been helped by urban legends about organ thieves, movies about cloningfor organ harvesting, and pretty much the entire literary career of Robin Cook, who seems unhealthily fixated on the idea of taking organs out of unwilling patients. Even Monty Python got into the act with a live organ donation segment in their film The Meaning of Life!