An Eye Opener – A review of the book ‘The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran’

“If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject” – Ayn Rand

People who dream to see a better future, not just for themselves, but for everyone in their community work tirelessly to do the right thing in life. Changing the world always starts with a small and a simple act, usually done on a daily basis. The step by step process involves changing our habits, beliefs, and roles we have within our society, and by also becoming conscious of the consequences of our everyday action. This must also lead to understanding emotions better, not just of our own but also of the people around us. Passionate people with big hearts and an even bigger vision for the little home we all call planet earth often undertake such personal journeys that change the course of the fate of all mankind.

Dr Sigrid Fry-Revere’s nonfiction book ‘The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran’ is a systematic study of people and culture told within the backdrop of the kidney donor shortage in the U.S to a seemingly trouble free Iran in the same regard. Set in the format of a quasi adventure story and part documentary style, this research rich book primarily focuses on Iran and the Iranian medical culture that seems to have overcome the problem of kidney shortage for transplants through compensated organ donation. The Kidney Sellers is an exploration into the underbelly of it all, where the author looks at the ethics of compensating for organ donation; from exploitation to the numerous number of lives it has managed to save. Sigrid Fry-Revere tries to find answer to the question why patients are dying in U.S for a lack of kidneys while there is actually a waiting list of people willing to donate in Iran.

This scholarly work began as a quest to find solutions to the U.S. organ shortage,
as there are over 100,000 Americans who need organ transplants at any given time. When Dr. Sigrid learns that Iran is supposed to have a waiting list of donors, she flies out there to research the ethics and even functionality of compensated kidney transplants. She finds out that there are some strict guidelines laid out when it comes to organ transplant in Iran plus a combination of recipient monetary donation and government help which ensures that the donor gets the best medical treatment post surgery. All this has contributed to Iran solving the kidney shortage problem to almost a full extent. Comparatively in America the congressional law preventing compensated kidney transfers and a preference to cadaver organ donation to live donation has all contributed to a pitiable condition for the patients who suffer waiting for the kidney, as the demand keeps outrunning the supply of cadaver kidneys. It has also given way to a parallel black market for kidneys, but this has often ended up exploiting the patients than helping them. Sigrid through her work wants to tell people that a good idea is a good idea no matter where it originated from and sometimes overcoming hasty emotional responses or predisposed judgement calls is necessary to see the bigger and possibly the brighter picture.

Early on in an understated but pivotal moment in the book the author describes meeting Steve, a friend of a friend currently on dialysis and also on the waiting list for kidney transplant. Description of the author’s meeting with Steve presents itself as the perfect start to the rest of the book. It grabs hold of you by the cuff of your collar and shocks you into attention with the absolute reality of the human element in the entire issue. Sigrid Fry-Revere comes across as very worldly wise, perhaps due to all the travel to different parts of the world and being introduced to different cultures as a child and also perhaps because of the early start to discussions on ethics with her parents, all of which seem to have helped her prepare better and undertake this journey which has been nothing short of an epic one in its preparation, build up and execution.

It’s not often you pick up a book that doesn’t have a detective, a vampire or pretty young things as its ‘heroes’ and yet compels you to read it cover to cover in one sitting. There are a large number of human interest stories that reveal themselves in light of the interviews that Sigrid conducts, which are both staggering and heart warming at the same time. Sigrid’s Iranian adventure has this very subtle undercurrent of humour element to it, especially in the beginning when she’s acclimatizing to the foreign environment, which is very original and helps in establishing this instant connection to the author’s pursuits.

A couple of subtle gems that you will in this book are the chapter numbers which are also shown in Farsi numerals and the use of image of a lotus flower as a typographic symbol for section breaks all somehow lead more authenticity and helps establish the mood, since most of the book does deal with Iran. It would be tough for anyone with a mature and functioning conscience reading the book not to feel the gravity of the situation and feel this compelling urge to do something, a positive step in the right direction, to contribute to solving this crisis.

Highly recommended.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Carolina Academic Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611635128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611635126

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