They say that your body is the only thing you really own and even that is just a lifetime lease. But it got me thinking, how much is your body worth and can you make some money off it?
Firstly, the organ trade is illegal in every country except Iran, but that doesn’t stop a huge black market from thriving particularly in regard to vital organs. Every year 150,000 people join the waiting list for a new heart, kidney or liver and almost half die before a new organ can be sourced for them. As the clock ticks, people can get desperate and resort to all kinds of illicit practices.
The organ trade is an ethical minefield, especially as the current black market mediates between demand in the first world and supply in the third world, and therefore many claim it constitutes exploitation. However research suggests that ilegal organ trade is on the rise and the World Health Organisation states that as much as 5% of all recipients engaged in commercial organ transplant in 2005.
Your body can be made to work for you while your living though, if you have long healthy hair you can sell it to a professional wig-maker. Typically about 30 cms of hair will net you around €50 euros which is not a great deal considering human hair wigs can sell for thousands. Funnily enough redheads can charge a highest price, followed by blondes and then black.
Blood is always in big demand and in the United States it can earn anything from €15 – €50 per litre. Bone marrow can also be sold in some states and the process of extracting it is not as painful as it sounds and if you are selected as a genetic match for a patient you can earn up to €2500. Sperm and egg donation are another way to earn money but in general it's only the super beautiful and super high-achievers who can earn good money for donations. It carries risk though as now in many countries the conceived child has the right to your name and details and could well turn up on your doorstep unexpectedly in the future.
The irony is though, that your body is worth much more dead than alive. You can earn some money by donating your body to science for research purposes but the black market gives by far, greater returns.
Organs are worth vast sums of money on the market, with hospitals regularly paying six figures for kidneys and hearts, but not much of that money reaches the actual donor. There is a whole industry of middlemen creaming the profits and there is considerable expense in administration, permits, transport and refrigeration. But providing you are healthy when you pop your clogs, your body can become quite an asset to your bereaved.
The price for an eye is not as the Bible tells us, an eye, but about €600, so a pair of eyeballs is worth up to €1200. Your scalp is rich in hair follicles that can be transplanted into the heads of insecure balding men all over the world and could earn as much as €450. Your skull with a full set of teeth could fetch up to €900 for dental work and providing the jaw is in perfect condition and arthritis-free. If you’ve been tea-total all your life, your liver could be the biggest earner of them all, with a value of up to €120,000. While the heart of a healthy adult human comes in at about €90,000.
With recent success and innovation in hand transplant procedure the demand for your paw has gone way up. A hand and forearm could be valued at up to €300 and you’ve got to of them. Your skin, without tattoos could go for up to €200 euros for the full two square metres. So your body is worth significantly more dead and illegal than alive and legal. According to many the theoretical value of your body could be in the region of a million euros.
So before you rush out to try and pawn your pancreas, consider, that altruism is still the best motivation for passing the body parts you don’t need to some one who does. After all when you’re gone you’re gone and you don’t need them any more and the feeling of knowing you’re helping so many in the future may be the best reward you could possibly have.
Here's a cadaver calculator that can tell you how much you can earn by donating your body