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THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Living kidney donations in the United States have declined in recent years, and one reason may be that poorer people can't afford to donate an organ, a new study suggests.
A donor's average estimated cost of making a live kidney donation is $5,000, including travel expenses, time lost from work, meals and more. But some reports say it can cost as much as $20,000.
Researchers divided the U.S. population based on median income levels of residents' ZIP codes to examine the rates of living kidney donation among low- and high-income people between 1999 and 2010.
Poorer people consistently had lower rates of living kidney donation than wealthier people. This difference was much larger in recent years than it was in the past, according to the findings published online July 17 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
"Since 2004, lower-income populations experienced a large decline in living donation, while living donation in higher-income populations was more stable," study author Dr. Jagbir Gill, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said in a journal news release.
"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," Gill added.
Along with the obvious benefits to transplant recipients, each living kidney donation leads to a net health care savings of $100,000.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, news release, July 17, 2014