Published by Carolina Academic Press on March 1, 2014
Dr. Fry-Revere is the first Westerner ever to interview kidney sellers in the one country in the world that claims to have solved it kidney shortage. Rarely does an adventure story carry such social significance as in this groundbreaking work. Dr. Fry-Revere spent two months in Iran interviewing and filming her subjects without permission from the Iranian government. She shares her discoveries in this fascinating book: part diary living in a dangerous country, part ethnographic essay, and part tale of people working together to overcome death and financial ruin. The Kidney Sellers is a shocking, thought-provoking, true story.
Sigrid Fry-Revere is the ethics consultant for the Washington Regional Transplant Community’s Organ and Tissue Advisory Committee and project director of the Center for Ethical Solution’s SOS (Solving the Organ Shortage) project. She has written hundreds of articles for publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, and Pediatric Nursing. She is also the author of one book (The Accountability of Bioethics Committees and Consultants) and has edited another (Ethics & Answers in Home Health Care). Sigrid holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and a law degree, both from Georgetown University.
An interview with Sigrid Fry-Revere where we get in depth with her ideas of making the world a better place, travel, dark chocolate, and cat’s purring!
Thank you so much for doing this interview for Creating Serenity.
Christina T. – How did this book start for you? Image, Idea, Dream?
I am a medical ethicist. Soon after getting my Ph.D. in patient-care ethics my son had kidney cancer – he was only 10 months old. That was 24 years ago. Ever since I’ve been at least tangentially involved in discussions and writing about the organ shortage academically. One issue that came up over and over again was that Iran claimed to have solved its organ shortage, but everyone I knew dismissed it as an exaggeration, a misrepresentation of what they had done, or just plain old Iranian propaganda. I decided I wanted to go see for myself – What if they really had solved their organ shortage? Then maybe we could learn something from their experience. When I came back, I decided what I had seen was too remarkable to just go into an academic article or monograph. It wasn’t the data that was important, it was the stories I had heard – and my own story of discovery. So I decided to write a book with a general audience in mind. I wanted to tell the story of pain and sorrow, of success and failure, of people willing to help others to help themselves and their families.
Christina T. – Did you have any growing pains with this novel?
More than I can count. This is my first creative non-fiction book. I read many books on ethnographic writing and how to tell a story without changing any of the facts — to be true non-fiction I had to quote people exactly. I couldn’t make up any dialogue that had to do with the people I interviewed in Iran or the U.S. – BUT, I could make things more interesting by adding my own feelings, dreams, fears, and stories (all true) from my childhood.
The novelty of my book is that it is true – my book is remarkable specifically because the people I met and the problems they face actually do exist.
Christina T. – Do you have a message you try to convey when writing a story?
My story conveys one message – the truth is more important than theory or political agenda. Iran has solved it kidney shortage, but there are many good and bad things going on in Iran. The truth is never as easy as people try to make it. There is much we can learn from what Iran has done, but the lessons are both what to do and what not to do.
Christina T. – What are you reading right now?
I just finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and loved it. I’m starting The End of Illness by David Agus but haven’t read enough to form an opinion.
Christina T. – Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences? I love simple easy to follow writing that conveys without making the reader work hard by looking up words or concepts. It is hard to pick just one or two authors. Novelists like Barbara Kingsolver have influenced my writing, but she is a novelist and I write non-fiction. In the non-fiction department, I’ve been influenced by Rebecca Skloot because her success with the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks told me it was OK to use my personal adventure in finding out the truth as a theme that ties the book together.
Christina T. – What do you do when you’re not writing?
I run two non-profits. Both are non-partisan. The first is The Center for Ethical Solutions which educates the public on issues in patient-care ethics and helps develop tools for dealing with difficult medical decisions. The second was just created and is a product of my book. It is Stop Organ Trafficking Now – which will work to change attitudes and government policies to make it easier to find donors at home and more difficult for Americans to resort to the exploitative black market abroad. All the author royalties from my book go to support the Solving the Organ Shortage project at the Center for Ethical Solutions.
Christina T. – Have you always wanted to be an author?
No – I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. Writing is a means to an end. But this book is the first time I tried to entertain as well as communicate very important ideas. My book is critical because it contains groundbreaking never before done research on Iran – but I hope those who read it will also find it a good read.
Christina T. – How did you break into the industry?
I have been writing academic articles and articles for the popular press for years. It was not easy to break into the industry. I got an agent to try to sell my book to a conventional publishing house, but then my desire to get my book out sooner made me go with an academic publisher – who was willing to take the chance on publishing a non-academic book.
Christina T. – What is your writing style? Do you create outlines for your writing or do you just sit and type away?
My husband was a journalist and he sits and thinks and thinks and then when he finally writes something it needs little editing. I’m the opposite. I make outlines. I write vignettes and then decide to use them or not. I edit and re-edit and re-edit again. I have to let my work sit for a few months and then read it allowed to myself and edit again. Not an easy process.
Christina T. – What is your next project? What have you been working on recently?
Not a book – After six years of feeling like I’ve been spinning my wheels – I finally think I’m going to start making some headway with my goal of increasing the organ – mostly the kidney supply – in the United States. All my efforts for the next year or two will be toward promoting my book and solving the kidney shortage (kidneys make up 90% of the world wide organ shortage).
Christina T. – Do you write using a computer or the old fashioned pen to paper? Always a computer.
Christina T. – Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what’s on your playlist!? No never. I need quiet.
Christina T. – Do you have a guilty pleasure? Yes – dark chocolate.
Christina T. – What is your favorite word? I don’t have a favorite word – words are nothing without context.
Christina T. – What is your least favorite word? I really dislike it when people use rare or unusual vocabulary just to prove they can. It is not quite as bad if the word is an excellent choice for conveying the author’s specific idea, but if it doesn’t fit exactly or a simpler word would work just as well or even better – I’m likely to throw the book at the wall.
Christina T. – Do you talk to your characters? I’m sure I would if I wrote novels.
Christina T. – What sound do you love? A cat’s purr and birds outside my window.
Christina T. – What sound do you hate? I’m not much for loud, grating sounds.
Christina T. – What’s your favorite time of year? I love change of season – It would be hard for me to live in a place where there weren’t seasons. I like reading and writing by the wood stove in winter, and on the patio is spring and fall. I like watching things change. Towards the end of one season, I begin to look forward to and yearn for the next one.
Thank you so much for taking the time to indulge my curiosity!
Sigrid Fry-Revere, J.D., Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Center for Ethical Solutions, a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to educating the public on issues in patient care ethics. Sigrid is also the medical ethics consultant to the Washington D.C. Regional Transplant Community’s Organ and Tissue Advisory Committee, and just founded a new 501(c)(4) non-profit “Stop Organ Trafficking Now.” She has taught bioethics and law at the university of Virginia and George Mason University; been a consultant to hospitals, hospices, and home health agencies; and practiced health and FDA law. Sigrid’s more than a hundred articles have appeared in newspapers, journals, and trade publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, and Pediatric Nursing. Sigrid holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and a law degree, both from Georgetown University. The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran is her first non-fiction adventure book. She lives with her husband Bob Corn-Revere on a farm in Northern Virginia where they raised their four children. (Full CV available upon request.)
Author’s Website with photo gallery
All author royalties go to support the SOS (Solving the Organ Shortage) project.
Early Praise for The Kidney Sellers
“Sigrid Fry-Revere has given us an amazing, courageous, provocative, even dangerous look at the complex and generally successful system of selling/donation that has solved the kidney supply problem in Iran. Eloquently, humorously written, it is one of my best reads in years–fascinating to anyone who loves a good travel adventure story, but essential for anyone interested in overcoming the organ transplant problem that costs thousands of lives each year.”
–Robert Veatch, Ph.D., Professor of Medical Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and Fellow of the Hastings Center. In 1983 Dr. Veatch testified before Congress in favor of outlawing kidney sales.
“The Kidney Sellers is exciting, well written, and insightful. This book is going to revolutionize the way we think about living kidney donation.”
—Harvey Mysel, Founder, Living Kidney Donors Network.
“The Kidney Sellers offers an invaluable and hopeful contribution to a long-standing controversy. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to take improving donation rates seriously.”
—Jim Gleason, UNOS board member, TRIO (Transplant Recipients International Organization) president.