Medicine: The Price of Life

Some 10,000 Americans suffer irreversible kidney failure each year. The human body cannot survive longer than about three weeks unless it can rid itself of the waste products that are normally extracted by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. This means that the victims face certain death unless they can do one of two things: 1) receive intermittent dialysis treatments, in which the blood is removed from the body and cleansed of most of its impurities, or 2) get a kidney transplant. Both alternatives are expensive. Dialysis can cost $25,000 or more a year; a kidney transplant costs $15,000 to...

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