Selling Your Body to Pay Off Debt

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to selling my body… for science.

You see, a company in town does clinical trials, and the compensation for each of these trials ranges from $700-4,000 depending on the length of the trial. Most of them require overnight observation.

I fit the category for doing a lot of them since I’m a healthy weight, a non-smoker, and I take no drugs of any kind (not even birth control).

The idea of getting paid nearly $4,000 to be “observed” for 2-6 nights over the course of a few months is pretty appealing.
Obviously there are risks, these are experimental medications. They’re looking for side effects, changes in how my body functions. I would literally be selling my body for science. But the idea of getting paid…. thousands of dollars… man, if I could do just 5 of these things I could pay off my debt. That is some serious dough.

It is always good to think of some creative ways to pay off debt… but is selling my body for medical research trials going too far?

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25 Responses to Selling Your Body to Pay Off Debt

  1. Niki says:

    It does sound tempting and it kind of goes along with donating your eggs/sperm. I would have to think about it for a long while. Emotionally I would say no, but my stronger practical side says yes.

  2. psychsarah says:

    This stuff freaks me out a little bit…but you know as a scientiest, that we wouldn’t know what we know now without volunteers. That said, I don’t know if I could go this far. I used to participate in dental studies, where I used a particular toothbrush or paste for a few weeks/months and got paid for my trouble. They also cleaned your teeth prior to each study, so they could control for the benefit of the product they were testing. These were pretty unintrusive, since you have to brush your teeth anyway and paid alright (plus the minor savings on toothbrushes/pastes). Say $100 for a study that lasts 2-3 weeks, or $800-$1000 if they lasted 6 months. Perhaps a more moderate alternative?

  3. Ella says:

    Hmm this is a toughie. Obviously we wouldn’t have any new drugs if people didn’t volunteer for such studies. But I would feel a little hesitant about doing this. It would depend on the circumstances too though. For instance if you are a smoker and you have trouble quitting. And there is this clinical trial that pays $2000 for you to test a new nicotine patch that can help you quit, then it would be a win-win situation. But otherwise, I would say think long and hard about it and learn more about the actual drug and trial before signing up.

  4. Red says:

    I don’t know… I might have to draw the line at donating my plasma (which my husband does not want me to do anymore, so I haven’t for quite a while). There are just SO many variables to consider. I think it would depend on how invasive the study was, what the medication was, etc.

    That being said, I have seriously thought about egg donation in the past. After all, I don’t have any plans to use the eggs… Why not let them go to use for someone else? For my purposes right now though, hormone injections would probably not help me with schoolwork. Have you considered egg donation?

    • SS4BC says:

      I tried donating plasma, but my veins are too narrow. Which wasn’t terribly surprising, nurses have a hard time drawing blood from me period – so I’m not even sure why I thought plasma donation would work.

      I have never thought about egg donation, I’m pretty sure with an IUD I wouldn’t be able to donate.

      • Red says:

        Donating plasma really doesn’t pay enough for your purposes anyway. We’re talking $20 a pop. I did it when I had a part-time job my first couple years of college and needed money to eat or to drive home for the weekend.

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  6. Clare says:

    I don’t think it would be worth it. The reward is that great because the risk is also great. Plus there’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t affect you days/weeks/months later and you usually have to sign off on the fact that you won’t hold them accountable for any bills incurred related to side effects. When your first wealth is health, I wouldn’t sabotage that. There are so many sick and unhappy people in the world, take super great care of your vessel and cherish that it’s so good to you.

  7. Ness says:

    This is a great post. I donate blood all the time because I have a common blood type with the population in my hometown. I had a friend who donated eggs in college. The hormones didn’t appear to affect her schoolwork or anything, but I remember her telling me about how bloated she was. She did get a nice paycheck, but she’s 5’8″, thin, with blue eyes, and blond hair 🙂 I remember the ads in the school paper being pretty specific. I’d probably only donate my eggs to a sibling.

    • Red says:

      Yeah, hormones wouldn’t affect your ability to do schoolwork. You’re right. 🙂 I just meant I’d be so hormonal that I probably wouldn’t want to do my work or go to class or go to work or deal with my husband. Ha! My friend J’s girlfriend apparently had major mood swings because of the hormone injections when she tried to donate, and J was like, “Don’t do it! You will be a nightmare!” 😉

  8. eemusings says:

    I’d be nervous about it, but depending on what I would need to do and the compensation I would totally consider it.

  9. I.N. says:

    I’d say that it completely depends on the specific risks of each study.
    Is the money there to compensate for inconvenience of overnight observation and fears, or because the chances of messing things up really are pretty high? Makes sense to me to read the small print, then make a decision. What kind of side-effects and what probabilities – and to put things in perspective, how do they compare to the probability of car accident, which most of us deal with every day?

    …However, as a current sex worker human rights advocate and former prostitute, I find it acutely and painfully ironic that there are legal and non-stigmatized ways to “sell” – or more accurately, in either context – rent your body…

  10. Do it! Peanut has done this before and it was awesome. He even got flown to Europe to test a jet-lag drug, and came home no worse for the wear but several thousand dollars richer.

    I’d do it myself, but I am usually disqualified early on in the process due to a recurring health problem.

    Keep in mind how strict the rules are for human test subjects — they won’t risk a lawsuit until the drug has been REALLY well tested and is not likely to cause problems. In Peanut’s case, the drug was already approved here in the US, but an EU country was testing it for approval within their guidelines.

    On second thought, Peanut says don’t do it — but send us a link to the study. 😉

  11. Kim says:

    I think the psychological effects of the study participation need to be carefully considered. Apart from the physical risks, what will it do to the way you perceive yourself if you use your body as a commodity, and grant strangers access to manipulate it with drugs? The financial rewards do sound tempting, but it may affect you in ways you haven’t anticipated. Tread with caution and good luck!

    • SS4BC says:

      Considering I’m pro-science, I doubt I would feel any negative psychological effects of doing this unless there were negative physical effects. But I have not really considered this. =)

  12. Belladatura says:

    As a clinical researcher, I agree with everyone that without human guinea pigs we wouldn’t be where we are today. However, I would encourage you to find a study that is being run by a reputable clinic and review the type of study and how much “risk” is involved (you can find studies in your area by searching here: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ ). It might be better to participate in a few observational studies that don’t pay as well versus a “higher risk” study that pays well because you’re taking unproven drugs. Contrary to what others have said, yes, we often put healthy people at risk by giving them untested (in healthy humans) drugs. Please read the consent form carefully – take it home, if you need more time. Also, if you do decide to participate, please be as forthcoming and honest as possible and participate fully. Although if you feel uncomfortable or uneasy at any time, drop out. Nothing is more important than your emotional, mental, physical health. Good luck!

  13. Anick says:

    I’d say do your research and then make a decision. There are so many different kinds of clinical trials and for so many different types of drugs. However, you mentioned above that you have narrow veins; this could be a problem for some of the trials due to the frequency of blood draws.

    I have done some clinical trials in the past and haven’t had any side effects. I usually do some research about the drug and make an informed decision. The payouts can be pretty good sometimes. I’m not sure if the process is the same in the U.S. as I’ve only done them in Canada.

    I have been following your blog for some time now but haven’t commented as yet.

    Good luck with your decision.

  14. I’d look at the risks as well. I have done experiements in university. In fact it was required to take part in one for 5% credit in my first year psychology course. They were all very unobtrusive experiments though. I think if the risks are minimal then go for it, but having to take some sort of drug would worry me.

    PS do people get PAID to donate blood in the states?

  15. I would never ever do that. Far too risky for me. There are less risky ways to make some extra money.

  16. I’m pro-science… but I’m a little worried about any side effects. And would they be requiring you to take anything? Stuff like that. I mean… Science is great. But if it’s dangerous – that’s a bit iffy.

    on a side note… PAID for plasma? In Canada, it’s all non-paid. Although they do give you cookies and juice! 😀

  17. TMcImmy says:

    This American Life did a great bit with people who make money doing these sorts of experiments. The bottom line is some are easy money, others really are human lab rat experiments (especially ones that require staying overnight so they can monitory your eating/etc).

  18. junior lynch says:

    i would do it in a heart beat to sell my body to senice, am a single dad of 2, and i could use the money to pay bills, and get my kids some new things like clothes, beds,things for this school year.

  19. zatanya lowe says:

    Yes I would not mind being observed while I am trying out scientific medicines and other stuff. Especially for that much money. What will I have to do?

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