by Courtney Vinik
May 7, 2007
In the United States we are currently unaware of the extreme levels of poverty in third world countries and severe measures people will go to in order to earn money. It is illegal in the United States but ironically operations take place in run down hospitals. People around the world sell organs for money as well as save on prescription drugs and the usual hospital procedures, giving the profession of broker an entirely new meaning. Many are against it including neo-liberal groups but things will remain constant until the greater population is educated and can see these actions going on right under their noses.
Organ trafficking is politically defined as occurring where a third party recruits, transports, transfers, harbors or receives a person, using threats (or use) of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of authority or a position of vulnerability for the purpose of removing that persons organs. The sale of human organs, whether from a living person or a cadaver, is against the law in virtually every country with the United States not being an exception. In 1984 the National Organ Transplant Act was passed and calls for as much as a $50,000 fine and five years in prison if a person is convicted of buying or selling human organs. Many people find the act of paying for organs morally and ethically irresponsible with it commonly referred to as inhumane and unacceptable. Living in a privileged society, we are highly unaware of what people will do for money including putting their own life on the line.
The positive aspect of following through with this procedure is that there is actually a global surplus of kidneys as well as other organs contrary to what the doctors in the US tell us. Often they make patients put their names on a waiting list for these organs. Sellers in India and Iraq literally line up at hospitals, often willing to part with a kidney for less than $1,000 because they are desperate for money. In the United States, there is no national transplant screening board; instead, every hospital has its own committee. Facilities running tight on money or in poorer areas appear to employ a type of "don't ask, don't tell" policywhen it comes to transplant surgeries on foreigners who come to the US for their operations. Brokers are familiar with these hospitals and make sure to pay the doctors with cold cash for this is risky business on their behalf. Only a small portion of the money (actually between $800 and $10,000)goes to the person selling theorgan.""Organ Broker" is the wrong term for this profession", one broker explained. "I callmyself an international transplant coordinator. I got into transplant coordination when I discovered how long the waiting lists were and how many peoplewere dying."
Almost all of these illegal surgeries are performed elsewhere in the nations where the laws are easier to duck, including the United States rather thanin the residing countries of the donors and recipient. "All Ineed is the money", the broker said. Then he quoted a price. "$145,000 cash, paid in advance. This would cover everything: all hospital fees, the payment to the seller, accommodations for accompanying family members and chartered, round-trip flight to the countrywhere the surgery would take place. The trip would last about five days, and the destination would be kept secret until the time they left." There are no records or files kept throughout the entire correspondence and follow up care is rare
Organ trafficking is most prevalent in third world countries. These civilians get sick or become so poor they do not know where to turn. In poverty stricken countries there is no such thing as insurance so when it comes to treatment and recovery, they do not have money for such emergencies. For example, kidney dialysis is expensive, time consuming, and does not give a guarantee to cure the person. In the long run it is cheaper for them to pay for this operation, receive a kidney from a living person and live longer. Healthy people who know of others who need organs sign up to donate theirs for money. It is extreme like prostitution; they objectify themselves in order to earn extra cash or in most cases just to support their family.
A lot of people in the United States are against organ trafficking both for religious and moral reasons. This is evident through the numerous groups that protest it and have set up coalitions. The Coalition for Organ- Failure Solutions is a non profit organization fighting against it as well as World Health Organization. They work towards combating the trafficking of humans for organs and ending the exploitation of the poor as a source of organ and tissue supplies. What makes it so difficult to work against organ trafficking is that there is no way to pin point it because there are no valid records or, for that matter any source of evidence. Also there are different restrictions for different countries. If someone was really desperate and in need of this operation and had the resources, that person could easily go to a country where it is legal; the laws are not consistent. Many countries rely primarily on organ and tissue donations from non-living donors. Other countries have very low consent rates of non-living donor ship (Japan, the Middle East and Islamic societies) or prohibit the procurement of organs from the non-living (Egypt) and instead rely on living- related and non-related (or recruited, commercial) donors as a source of organs.
Living in the United States we do not see the extreme poverty that others experience so it is easy for us to turn our heads in another direction. There are third world countries in which the average income is $180 a year;that is absurd. And as the poverty levels keep increasing and the gaps between levels of society keep getting larger, extreme measures of earning money such as these are going toincrease. Many of these illegal operations happen right here in the United States and the majority of citizens are unaware of them. Isn't life worth more than the almighty dollar? I believe that for anything to change we need to gain all the information we can about this organ trafficking business so we can educate ourselves and others around us. Then working together we can spread this knowledge locally and gradually work our way up to the government level. People should not have to live their lives this way and put themselves in so much danger.
This is the homepage of a non-profit organization working towards combating organ trafficking. The layout was simplistic and made it easy to find valuable information right at hand. Major topics of interest were outlined including the history behind organ trafficking as well as how it is defined, what tactics they are using to stop it, and whom it affects. It is updated daily and has direct links to relevant sites.
This webpage outlined laws that exist in various countries around the world having to do with organ trafficking. It was easy to compare and contrast the major differences that exist however not everything was explained in simple terms. The majority of the site is very political and in depth as I would think only to appeal and be of use to government majors.
This published news paper article talked of a mans personal experience in the organ trafficking trade. This was very useful and gave me great insight. This type of information including prices and speaking of exact procedures is very hard to come by for there are almost never any records kept or anything written down for that matter talking about what goes on under the table.
This article from JSTOR was informative however it contained a lot of political and medical terms. It was helpful with general information and explaining how the United States feels about this issue in comparison to third world countries. It does a great job of laying out legislation existing about organ trafficking especially in Virginia; however with the language they use I dont see how the average person could understand it.
This book explains everything that goes on in organ transplants very well. Between the words and the pictures, they almost share too much. This book was helpful in learning about the procedure and the entire process of locating a donor. I found this book to be eye opening.