Money Underpins Drop in Kidney Donations Among Men and the Poor

From - March 8, 2018

Money Underpins Drop in Kidney Donations Among Men and the Poor

THURSDAY, March 8, 2018 -- Your wallet takes a hit when you donate a kidney to save someone's life.

That could be the reason for a steady decline in U.S. kidney donations by men and by people in low-income households, a new study suggests.

The living kidney donation rate among men dropped by 25 percent between 2005 and 2015, but remained stable among women, the researchers found.

Kidney donation rates also declined for poor and lower-income families over that period, according to the report.

Money appears to be at the root of these trends, said Dr. Jagbir Gill, an assistant professor of nephrology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

"We found that in both men and women, donation rates dropped the most in the lower-income groups, and the effect was much more pronounced in men," Gill said.

Medical costs are covered for people who choose to donate a kidney, but many incidental costs are not repaid, he said. These include travel expenses and lost wages from missed work time.

"We believe because there are these financial barriers to donation, people in higher-income groups are able to sustain that more," Gill said. "People who are in lower-income groups are taking a big financial hit and they might not be able to support that hit when they donate."

Living kidney donations declined from 6,647 in 2004 to 5,538 in 2014, said Dr. Krista Lentine, a professor of medicine at St. Louis University and chairwoman of the Living Donor Committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing.

The supply of donated kidneys is not keeping up with demand. About 101,000 people await kidney transplants in the United States, but in 2014 only 17,100 kidneys came from living or dead donors, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

To figure out why fewer people are donating kidneys while they are alive, Gill's team analyzed transplant data and U.S. Census data.

The investigators compared donation rates among income categories, and found that living donation declined among both men and women who were in the lower half of U.S. earners.

But while donation remained stable or even increased among women in the top half of the nation's earners, it either declined or remained stable among men.

"Men typically or more commonly are the primary earner in the household. They have more dependents on their health insurance plans. They also are generally paid more than women," Gill said.

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