With a world wide shortage of organs, the black market organ and tissue trade has grown out of control due to the rising demand from the sick and dying. This shortage of organs is fueling an illicit business of buying and selling all sorts of organs and tissues, often through involuntary donation. While it would be nice to have an ample supply of organs and tissues for sick people that desperately need them, the black market organ and tissue trade needs more enforcement in order to cease the profiteering of immoral and unethical transplanting of organs from human to human.
The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. In the United States, over 101,000 people are on the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network waiting list, but there are only about1100 donors (“Data”). According to OrganDonor. Gov, 19 people die each day waiting for life-saving organ transplants (“The Shortage”). Society as a whole needs to find a humane answer to this widening gap. One way organs and tissues arrive on the black market is from living donors. The desperation of some people that become financially destitute is dumbfounding.
Why anyone in perfectly good health would sell any part of their body is beyond my comprehension. I understand the principle of donating an organ to help someone that needs it in order to survive, but parting with an organ for the sole reason of profit is crazy. If I were in this situation, even if the money was needed to feed my family, I have a hard time seeing myself ever doing something so extreme. There has to be another way. The lengths that some people will go for money stretch as far as selling a cornea, which leaves the donor blind in that eye (“Experts warn”). Usually these illegal organs sell to the highest bidder.
Other body parts that can be harvested are veins, bones, skin, intestine, heart, lungs, and many other parts of the anatomy (“Organ Donation Statistics”). I have a friend who has a cadaver ACL in his knee that was donated legally. His doctor told him that the ligament to be replaced was beyond repair because he tore the ligament too many times. The only viable option was another actual ligament that hadn’t been damaged before, one from a cadaver. I have heard of synthetic repairs for this procedure, but apparently they are an inferior option to the real body part meant to be there.
Certain parts of the anatomy can also be used for reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. For example, burn victims often need skin grafts and trauma patients sometimes need reconstructive surgery using pieces of bone. Sometimes the tissues can be supplied from the patient’s own body. Using the black market to acquire organs is also dangerous. Poor medical practices in third world countries abroad can’t possibly provide the level of care available in well developed countries like the United States. Often surgery takes place in makeshift operating rooms.
Stories abound of converting shanties and whole levels of hotels into wards. Infections have and do occur. A study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed the aftereffects of 33 people that traveled outside the United States for kidney transplants. One year after surgery, 30% of the kidneys were rejected by the patients, including one death. This is a higher percentage than normal compared to transplants done in the United States (“Obtaining Kidney Transplants”). The risk of infection applies to the donor as well.
Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Aziz lives in the slums of Cairo. He sold his kidney for US$2300. A year after his surgery his health became so poor he could barley walk around his apartment. “If anyone had made clear to me the danger, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said (“Couple scarred”). What benefit is gained from selling an organ if you get an infection and die? Money is useless when you’re dead. The harvesting of organs and tissues is not always done for money. Many people donate because they have family members or loved ones that desperately need a transplant in order to survive whatever ailment is afflicting them.
Others donate simply because they can. The act of voluntary donation can be done while alive or after deceased, although donors who are still alive are limited as to what can be donated. For instance, someone can donate a kidney or part of their liver while they’re still alive, but it would be hard to survive having donated a heart. If more people would voluntarily donate their body parts without jeopardizing their health, the world wide organ shortage would be drastically reduced. It would also help if more people agreed to donate after death.
The donation of whole cadavers is the most beneficial. Just one cadaver can yield over a dozen transplantable organs and tissues (Shanteau). The illegal sale of organs and tissues from the dead is a substantial area of supply for the black market body parts trade. The fact that a whole cadaver can be dissected and sold for parts for over $200,000 makes the practice all too appealing for some, no matter the risk (Carreon). The horror stories of doctors, funeral homes, prisons, and organized crime outfits essentially stealing organs have been documented.
Even in the United States this has happened. A couple of men involved with the Willed Body Program at UCLA, a program that provides cadavers donated to science for medical students, used the medical center as a front for over six years to traffic body parts to the black market. Over 800 cadavers were dismembered and sold for parts (Carreon). Another case in California involved a doctor who tried to speed up his patient’s death so he could harvest the patient’s organs. The patient, Ruben Navarro, was on life support and his family had given their permission to donate his organs.
Navarro’s doctor, Dr. Roozrokh, prematurely administered several drugs in order to hasten the process. Under California state law, transplant doctors cannot direct the care of organ donors before they are declared dead. Navarro’s mother was very upset. “They mistreated him and they abused him and they took advantage of him and me,” said Rosa Navarro. “He didn’t die with dignity, and I didn’t have the chance to really say goodbye to him. I don’t think it is right. These people need to pay for what they did to him” (Ornstein).
Organ theft happens all over the world and is taking place with frightening frequency. In Egypt, three men supposedly went in for a job interview and oddly were subjected to medical examinations. The doctor “discovered” that they all were suffering from a kidney infection requiring emergency surgery. They later woke up in the hospital missing a kidney (Bassoul). These types of stories were believed to be urban legend until true accounts like this surfaced. I wish the stories were just urban legend. There are also stories that involve kidnapped children as well as adults.
In Albania, doctors working for a terrorist group were taking organs from Serbs kidnapped in Kosovo and Metohija. The bodies were dumped in an abandoned mine shaft and in a swamp (“Illegal Organ”). Recently a woman in Nepal was burned to death for attempting to steal a child intended for the organ trade. A number of children have gone missing recently in this area and police believe it is the work of organized crime groups involved with the black market organ trade (“Woman Burnt”). Also, in the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation recently issued an alert warning to the rise of child abductions.
The kidnappers take the children for the purpose of selling their organs to people from other countries (“Alert”). This is the worst act that I have read or heard about and it makes me sick. This alone should be enough to warrant more action and involvement to stop the trade of black market organs. Victims of violence in third world countries have also been pillaged for body parts. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a world renowned expert on the global human organ trade, said that in South Africa she witnessed “the cadavers of poor, mostly black, victims of violence being looted for usable eyes and heart valves” (Scalise).
In addition to organs stolen from people that died from violence, prisoners have also been targeted as an easy source of body parts. China executes more prisoners than any other country in the world, more than 1770 in 2005, and has admittedly sold organs from executed prisoners (“Organ sales”). A survey between organ transplant professionals was conducted and a large portion of them surveyed agreed that procurement methods were ethically sound in the United States and Europe, but only 4% thought that the procurement methods in China were ethically sound (“Majority Of Doctors”).
This could explain some of the infections and aftereffects that have been reported with transplants done outside the United States. The majority of organ sales and transplants take place abroad. China is now a major hub for transplants, followed by the Philippines and India. Patients seeking new organs travel from other countries to come over for what has been called “transplant tourism” ( Merion). The countries that see the highest number of recipients of organ transplants tend to be well developed countries like the United States, Australia, Japan, and Canada (Shimazono).
I personally would wait for a certified organ from a U. S. donor list that has been matched for me and tested for viability, as not all transplants abroad go as planned. One of the many reasons that the purchase and sale of organs is illegal is because it unfairly provides organs to the highest bidders. This usually means that only the wealthy are able to afford transplants. Some have suggested legalizing the organ trade saying that it would increase the donor pool and prevent the need for illegal and dangerous “transplant tourism. ” Other proponents think that a person has the right to do whatever they want to
with their body. People who oppose the idea think that legalization would increase the growth of black market organ sales because it might increase the overall market for organs (Petechuk). The suggestion that legalizing the sale of organs may lower scientific standards in exchange for quick and easy money should also be considered. The sale of body parts is illegal in most of the world. This has not stopped desperate patients seeking transplants to replace their failing organs with healthy ones from either willing donors or from forced donation.
Many times that transplants are performed the patients don’t know where the organs come from or how the organs were acquired. I would have to imagine this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy suits most recipients just fine. The illicit underground organ transplant market brings up strong ethical and moral issues as well. There is no question that the world needs a larger supply of transplantable organs, but the way many of these organs are acquired and procured is sad and inhumane.
Whether it is through the many scams out there, forced involuntary donation, or the murder of innocent poor people, organ acquisition without consent needs to be stopped. The sale of organs by the poor is thought by many to exploit the human body. Others say that it erodes the sense of community. I would have to agree. It is sad that the illegal sale of human bodies and body parts has become such a lucrative business. The organized groups that steal organs have no regard for human life. All they see are dollar signs, or whatever their currency may be. Is there a good solution to the escalating organ trade problem?
I definitely think more education and involvement should be addressed to the issue. If more people knew about this horrible industry it would get the attention it needs. As Nancy Scheper-Hughes stated in the book titled The body: a reader, “The problem is that markets are by nature indiscriminate and inclined to reduce everything – including human beings, their labor, and their reproductive capacity – to the status of commodities” (Scheper-Hughes). Not-for-profit voluntary donation is far from adequate for supplying enough organs, but for now it is the only legal and sensible option.
If we as a society can find a way to supply enough organs and tissues to fulfill the needs of patients world wide, either through legislation and cooperation internationally or some other means, a lot of senseless deaths could be prevented. This includes all methods of donation and acquisition, legally and illegally. The black market body parts trade may provide some of the organs needed, but the atrocious and barbaric harvesting and trafficking of body parts needs to be extinguished and new ways of procurement found. Works Cited “Alert. ” “Alert: Child-organ trafficking on the rise.
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24 April 2009. . “Illegal Organ. ” “Illegal Organ Transplantation Clinic Connected with KLA Atrocities. ” De-Construct. net E-Zine. 7 November 2008. 27 April 2009. . “Majority Of Doctors. ” “Majority Of Doctors Skeptical Of Organ Transplantation Practices In China. ” ScienceDaily. com. 23 April 2009. 27 April 2009. . Merion, Robert M. , et al. “Transplants in Foreign Countries Among Patients Removed from the US Transplant Waiting List. ” American Journal of Transplantation 8 (2008): 1-8. Academic Search Premiere. EBSCOhost. Colorado Mountain College library, Leadville, CO. 27 April 2009. .
“Obtaining Kidney Transplants”. “Obtaining Kidney Transplants Abroad Carries Certain Medical Risks. ” ScienceDaily. com. 16 October 2008. 25 April 2009. . “Organ Donation Statistics. ” HowStuffWorks 25 April 2009. 25 April 2009. . “Organ sales”. “Organ sales ‘thriving’ in China. ” BBC News Website. 27 September 2006. 27 April 2009. . Orstein, Charles, Tracy Weber. “Doctor charged in death of donor. ” Los Angeles Times 31 July 2007. 27 April 2009. . Petechuk, David. Organ Transplantation. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. Scalise, Kathleen. “Extreme Research. ” Berkely Magazine. 1999. 27 April 2009. .
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, et al. The body: a reader. Eds. Mariam Fraser, Monica Greco. Routledge, 2005. Shanteau, James. “Low number of organ transplants due to lack of donors. ” Kansas State Collegian Online. 6 April 2009. 25 April 2009. . Shimazono, Yosuke. “The state of the international organ trade: a provisional picture based on integration of available information. ” Bulletin of theWorld Health Organization. 85. 12 (2007): 1-. . “The Shortage. ” OrganDonor. Gov 24 April 2009. 24 April 2009. . “Woman Burnt. ” “Woman Burnt Alive For Alleged Kidnap Attempt. ” Nepal Mountain News 14 April 2009. 27 April 2009. .