Woman tries to sell kidney to pay billMay 22, 1997
Web posted at: 10:59 a.m. EDT (1459 GMT)
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) -- Faced with a $25,000 bill for gall bladder surgery, a Florida woman placed an ad in a local newspaper to sell her kidney to cover the surgery. But there's a big problem with her plan: It's illegal.
"KIDNEY Runs good, Taking offers. $30,000/obo," read the advertisement in this week's St. Petersburg Times.
Ruth Sparrow isn't joking either. She has been drinking buckets of water for more than two months to clean out the organ, prepping it for donation.
Sparrow, a 55-year-old nurse, said she told doctors before the surgery that she would be unable to pay the bill and offered to pay the bill by donating her kidney. The offer was refused, she said.
Federal and state laws prohibit anyone from offering buy or sell a human organ or tissue. In Florida, the offense is a second-degree felony.
Jean Layne of Lifelink of Florida, a tissue recovery organization, explained that the reason for the law is "not to disadvantage families who do not have a lot of money, allowing everyone equal access to transplantation."
Bayfront Medical Center, where the gall bladder surgery was performed, was stunned when notified of the ad. It said Sparrow owes about $17,000 on the bill and that the medical center is "trying to get her qualified for some type of assistance."
Sparrow dropped her medical insurance four years ago because she could not afford the $4,000-a-year premium.
She said it's unfair that taxpayers pick up the tab for criminals' medical expenses, while she could get punished for her tactic. (145K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) She also emphasized that she did not know it was illegal to run the ad.
"I just want to live in my own little hovel and pay my bills like everybody else," she said. "I don't want to owe anybody."
From CNN-affiliate WTVT Reporter Stan Jayson
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