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Extra income? Be a human guinea pig

It sounds creepy, but some people recommend it.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 3:37AM

True confession: We made some extra money in college by drinking a prodigious amount of vodka in a hospital setting. By participating in this study, we earned $200, or maybe it was 50 bucks. (The memory was probably damaged by all the brain cells we killed.)


Have you ever helped the cause of science to make extra cash? Several bloggers wrote recently that they have.


Hank of Own The Dollar, guest posting at Budget Are Sexy, said he made a quick $40 by participating in a study about vaccines. "I was given the money for about 30 minutes of my time, a brief medical questionnaire, and five small vials of blood. Not bad for a half hour’s worth of 'work,'" he wrote.


Andy Hough at Tight Fisted Miser has more scoop on clinical trials. "I've done at least a dozen medical studies and for most of them I have felt no effects at all," he wrote. "The exceptions were one drug that gave me a headache and a sleeping pill which (not surprisingly) put me to sleep."


Hank also described several ways to make money by selling body parts, like plasma, eggs or sperm. Unappealing? Maybe a clinical trial is more up your alley. Hank wrote:

You can get paid to participate in studies for things such as sleep deprivation, time isolation, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine studies, exercise, diet and nutrition studies, psychology studies, the list goes on and on.

Of course there are drawbacks in all of these possibilities, readers pointed out:

  • Some procedures, like donating eggs or sperm, require lots of time, screening and paperwork. As an article at MSN Money said, "It's far easier to get a date than a sperm-donor card. About 95% of men who apply don't make the cut." Plus there's a psychological hurdle we would find difficult. (We won’t even discuss the black market in kidneys.)
  • You may not get paid if you don't see it through to the end. "A friend of mine signed up for a study on PMS and different remedies, but she went through such horrible mood swings she couldn't finish with the testing. Thus she wasn't paid," Budgets Are Sexy reader "MK" said. Find out before you take the leap.
  • Could there be insurance complications later on? That's probably worth investigating as well. Reader Ashley said it happened to friends of hers. "Their insurers have attempted to use their experiment participation as a 'pre-existing condition' to remove their liability for covering medical costs later on down the line," she wrote.

Clinical trials can be found at, a Web site of the National Institutes of Health. Note: Many of the studies listed there don’t accept healthy volunteers. Andy also recommended


What do you think? We suspect we’d have to be in dire straits before we subjected our body to this.


Related reading:

Published Oct. 6, 2009



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