By Michael Harris
BioWorld Senior Editor
Well, not everything at once, if you want to enjoy and appreciate the proceeds of your clearance sale!
So, how much of our bodies could we afford to sell in order to significantly upgrade our financial status and remain healthily functional? We could conceivably sell organs and components such as one kidney, sperm, bone marrow, eggs, hair, even genitals, and go from middle class to millionaire in time for the next tax season.
Now, what about selling off components in transactions that are currently illegal, immoral or not technologically possible yet, including stem cells, DNA, fetuses, brains, etc.? Parting with those vital parts would render you a millionaire several times over.
If you are willing to give up body parts that would diminish quality of life, but not disable or kill you, such as one eye, a hand or tendons, you would still be able to restructure your bank account and cavort with the Pretty People, but you might have to settle for a gold-digger rather than an A-list supermodel.
Women presume the brain to be the most valuable body commodity, while men would be willing to pay the most for . . . Yep, it’s exactly what you think!
Seven billion millionaires, but 99% have zero liquidity!
Would you rather have your health – or your wealth? It appears no more than 1% of the global population can have both.
In developed countries, an individual’s peak age of combined physical and mental health, on average, hits its apex at about 28-32 years old, but is influenced by lifestyle, wear-and-tear, disease, disposition, in-laws, dumb decisions and other factors. Peak physical condition generally occurs on the front side of 30, while the advantage of experience and the benefit of a fully developed brain on the back side of a human’s third decade of life impart a mental edge. After that, mostly due to conduct and choices of our own free will, it’s all downhill to declining health for the majority of us.
None of us will exploit the wall-to-wall capabilities of an average human body that encases more than 500 diverse skills and abilities, such as a brain that can store 100 trillion facts or a mind that can handle 15,000 decisions a second. But some of us have exceeded the norm and evolved to such noteworthy distinctive levels of skill and competence that allow individuals among us to invent the wheel, capture antimatter, discover vaccines, throw a baseball 100 mph, eradicate smallpox, memorize the entertainment system remote control button functions, or simultaneously text and drive.
How much is your body worth in chemical and mineral composition? Less than the cost of the beakers that would hold your elemental essence. You’d command about $4.50, according to the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, which breaks down the average human body with substances that comprise more than 3% to be: 65% oxygen; 18% carbon; 10% hydrogen and 3% nitrogen. By comparison, panhandling will bring riches more quickly.
The human body contains only trace quantities of substances, such as copper, iron and aluminum, that thieves steal in quantity for their market value. Otherwise, black market harvesters would likely fillet you for your shiny spine much like they excise the copper tubing from your air conditioning unit. And you’d be advised to stop bragging about that mint condition titanium knee and hip you’re keeping in your body safe deposit box, lest you are abducted on the jogging trail and wake up in China in the ICU with gutted-out buttocks and a Bluebeard-like gam. The average person possesses approximately 16 square feet of skin, but it’s impractical to regard it as a rare commodity when everyone else on Earth has it. If you base the human skin's value on a $0.25 per square foot market price of cowhide, the value of an average human pelt is worth $3.50. That may be showing some generosity, as most consumers would opt for a leather jacket over a human flesh blazer. That is, unless someone like Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb of Silence of the Lambs infamy is the fine flesh tailor consumer (“It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it's told. It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again.”).
Even if you valued your hide the equivalent of a prized or rare skin such as alligator or T-Rex, it would bring you about $800 at $30 to $50 per square foot from Prada-wearing fashionistas. That might pay for your grocery tab for a month, but would hardly be worth the skinless pain you would suffer and the repugnance the rest of us would have to endure seeing a walking, talking escapee from the Bodies exhibition.
Forget altruism. We’re leaving capitalism on the autopsy table!
An evaluation from the Indiana University School of Medicine of that $45 million value breaks down the worth based on the body’s parts, as well as its fluids, tissues and germ-fighting components.
Are we crazy for donating our bodies to science, rather than to the highest bidder? Not to be too macabre, but the value of our human cemeteries exceeds the treasured worth of dinosaur archeological sites. Perhaps we should stop fighting over grandpa’s cuff links and put out feelers for “’dem bones!”
Bone marrow is the most valuable body component, rated at $23 million, based on an average 1,000 grams at $23,000 per gram. An auction for your DNA can raise $9.7 million, while mined antibodies can ring up $7.3 million. A lung can command $116,400, a kidney $91,400 and a heart $57,000.
The survey found that a woman's eggs score more than a man's sperm, as a fertile woman could sell 32 egg cells over eight years for $224,000. A man attempting to earn the same amount would have to make 12 sperm donations a month for 20 years. Why, the compensation for male escort service duties trumps that!
The prices are based on cost estimates taken from hospitals and insurance companies, and are based on projected prices only in the U.S. The prices also are contingent on the capacity to be able to successfully extract all these substances from living tissue for sale.
Although many of the aspects – or any attempts to pursue such acts – of this speculative dissection are currently either illegal, unethical, impractical, impossible or all of the aforementioned, for your own self-esteem you should regard your general body value as closer to $45 million than $4.50.
So, the next time you fill out a loan application that requires your personal net worth, it might not be an absolute untruth to put it at $45 million to reflect your tangible assets, as well as your in vivo ones. Just don’t put your body up as collateral or you might find yourself hanging on a tow truck hook in repossession or in court fending off body foreclosure.
Bill Gates may be worth $56 billion dollars more than the poorest of us human beings, but even the most downtrodden and disadvantaged are, theoretically, multi-millionaires!
In the end, lest you mistakenly think flesh and blood – and not metal and circuitry – are the be-all and end-all; well, machine still trumps man. There are scores of machines that are valued higher than you, such as Japan’s Earth Simulator, the most expensive computer, with a $400 million price tag and the ability to make 131 trillion calculations per second! Feeling inadequate yet?
Oprah, worth only $2 billion, could barely afford to buy the world’s most expensive vehicle – the $1.7 billion Space Shuttle Endeavour; but then, she couldn’t afford to fill the fuel tank!