Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it is time to start worrying about the next set of holidays. Whatever you celebrate, odds are there are presents involved, and odds are also that you are worried about how you are going to pay for everything. If you are like me, you have made jokes that are only sort of jokey about selling a kidney or a cornea to pay for it all.
Turns out that isn’t legal. There is a whole chapter in Georgia law about “Human Body Traffic.” In the code section entitled “Buying or selling or offering to buy or sell the human body or parts,” we are told that “It shall be unlawful…for any person, firm, or corporation to buy or sell, to offer to buy or sell, or to assist another in buying or selling or offering to buy or sell a human body or any part of a human body.”
As with all laws, and with all rules in general, there are exceptions. You can, without fear of prosecution, sell your blood, or any part of your blood, or your hair. This means that the wife in O Henry’s classic Christmas story The Gift of the Magi did nothing wrong by selling her long hair to buy her husband the watch fob chain to go with his grandfather’s watch. (If you are unfamiliar with this story, click here to read it. It is heartbreakingly beautiful and not much longer than this article.)
You can give body parts away (hence kidney donations and people donating their bodies to science after they die.) If you give a body or a part of a body away for scientific purposes, there can be a payment of a fee if such fee is paid to a procurement organization, as that term is defined by law.
If you have actual expenses in connection with a donation, you can be reimbursed for those as well. Let’s say you donate a kidney to a cousin who lives on the other side of the country. You could be reimbursed for travel expenses, for the time you had to take off of work, and any medical costs associated with the donation.
Another exception is “The payment of financial assistance under a plan of insurance or other health care coverage.” Although I think I understand what that means, I can’t think of a situation to which this would apply. Probably there was a story that led to the insertion of this language in the code – there always is – but I don’t know what it was.
You can also buy (or sell) “human tissue, organs, or other parts of the human body for health sciences education.” In other words, you couldn’t sell your extracted tooth, or your amputated leg, or any other part of your body (or anyone else’s body) to a collector, but you could sell it to a science teacher for use in a science class.
In order to make sure that organ donors don’t incur any cost, you can also be paid for the reasonable costs associated with removing the donated parts, storing, and transporting them so long as the body part (or body) is being used for medical or scientific purposes.
So, this holiday season, if you find the perfect gift costs an arm and a leg, best not to pay for it literally.
This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only. In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation. I have not done that here.