eBay Halts Kidney Auction

The bidding started at $25,000. By the time it had reached $5.7 million a week later, eBay stopped the bidding for a healthy human kidney on its Internet auction site, reports Correspondent Sean Comey of CBS News station KPIX-TV in San Francisco.

The description that drew furious bidding read: "Fully functional kidney for sale. You can choose either kidney. Buyer pays all transplant and medical costs. Of course only one for sale, as I need the other one to live. Serious bids only."

Spokesman Kevin Pursglove said eBay stopped the auction Thursday because the seller broke eBay's rules outlawing the sale of body parts. Selling your own organs is also illegal under federal law, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a $50,000 fine.

"Any time you have an open trading environment with almost six million registered users, you're likely to see somebody who tries to bend the rules, or to pull a prank on their fellow users," Pursglove said.

The seller, identified as "hchero" from Sunrise, Fla., started the bidding on Aug. 26. A message sent to his e-mail address was not immediately answered, according to the Associated Press.

A second kidney auction was posted Thursday afternoon starting at $4 million and had not received any bids.

"Obviously these are pranks. We believe that due to the wording in the other one that that was a prank and we don't want to leave anything to chance," eBay spokeswoman Kristin Seuell said Thursday.

Joe Belarde, a patient in San Jose, Calif., who is waiting for his second kidney transplant, understands the preciousness of the organ. After his first transplant, he says he was able to get back into a vigorous exercise regime, and felt his good health restored.

"Physically, I had no limitations." he said.

But health experts are horrified by the auction.

"Well, first of all, I'd question the ethics of any doctor who would participate in that kind of transaction," said Dr. Thomas Reardon, president of the American Medical Association. "Second of all, it's illegal to sell organs in this country."

eBay has no system to spot questionable offers, instead relying on users to notify the company, Pursglove said.

"We get items we have to take down on a fairly frequent basis. From time to time, we'll get a kidney or a liver," he said.

In April, a group of engineers tried to auction themselves as "high-priced, professionally trained cybergeeks" for $3.14 million. The group stopped its own auction without explanation, but not before receiving a number of bids.

Earlier this year, San Jose-based eBay banned the sale of guns and ammunition on the site, after people tried selling a missile, a bazooka, a rocket launcher and other military weapons.