'World News' Ultimate Financial Hardship: Selling Your Body for Medical Science

Just how bad is the economy? ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” went all the way to Edwardsburg, Mich. to find out.

The Dec. 18 broadcast of “World News” highlighted a new economic indicator – the increase in the number of people willing to lend their body to science for money.

“We’re going to turn next to some of the extreme measures that some Americans are taking because of the faltering economy,” Gibson said. “According to an ABC News Poll, more than one in four people say someone in their household has been fired, faced a cut in pay or a reduction in work hours. Facing mounting debts and dwindling finances, some people are deciding to put their bodies at risk.”

The segment featured one woman willing to take experimental pharmaceuticals to make ends meet after she lost her job and got behind on her mortgage.

“Maria Finkbeiner could not find a job,” ABC correspondent Gigi Stone said. “Her home was entering foreclosure. That’s when she spotted an ad seeking volunteers willing to take experimental prescription drugs for pay.”

“When Finkbeiner, a perfectly healthy mother of two met the criteria of a clinical medical trial near her home in Michigan, she signed up,” Stone said. Finkbeiner  was willing to subject her body to the potential “unknown” long-term risks and short-term side effects, which “can” include nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping according to the ABC News Web site.

However, as unpleasant as that sounds, Finkbeiner didn’t come out so bad -- financially that is.

“In just two weeks, she had earned nearly $3,000,” Stone said. “It would have taken her six weeks to earn that in her old job.”

In fact, according to Just Another Lab Rat, a Web site offering information about clinical trials, those who only do these studies for a living can make $18,000 to $28,000 a year..

Not surprisingly, according to Stone, the number of people “willing to loan their body to science for a fee” is growing – a sign of challenging times for some people.