End People's Lives For Organ Trafficking! Even Hospitals Are Involved!
There has been an urban legend that surely many are familiar with. It usually starts with someone meeting a good-looking stranger and going with them for dinner, then they decide to trust them and go back to either person’s hotel room, have a drink, and then pass out. The following morning when they wake up, they find themselves in the bathtub, naked, covered in ice, and with a poorly stitched side. In some versions of the story sometimes there is also a phone nearby with a note attached that reads, “Seek emergency medical care right away.” While some medical experts agree that this seems to be a bit of an overly dramatized story, the real side of human organ trafficking is just as sinister and macabre...or maybe even more so. Why does the black market organ trade exist? What are the costs involved? And what are some of the shocking stories behind it? Read on to find out.
Reason For Illegal Organ Trade
While it may seem like an urban legend to keep kids from meeting up with strangers from the internet the illegal organ trade is very much a real thing and it might even be happening in a hospital near you. Some might ask: but what is the reason for it? It’s simply because the demand for organ transplants, especially kidney transplants, is just so high. According to the National Kidney Foundation, the average wait time for a kidney in the U.S is 3.6 years. In Canada, on average the wait time is 4 years but it can be as long as 7. Roughly there are around 123,000 men, women, and children that are on the organ donor’s list right now and an average of 25 people will die each day. This results in a huge scramble to find organs, legitimate or otherwise.
Hospital’s Using Trafficked Organs
Anthropologist Nancy Scherper-Hughes has posed as a medical doctor in different countries all over the world in order to investigate organ trafficking and according to her even some of the U.S’s top medical facilities have been caught with illegally trafficked organs. Those included medical centers in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, among others. When in a Philadelphia hospital, she found herself across the table from a group of organ transplant surgeons and showed them a 60-page report of information and interviews with middlemen, showing them where their kidneys came from. The WHO estimates that one-fifth of all transplanted kidneys, roughly 70,000 of them, are trafficked each year. As for Scherper-Hughes, she was kicked out of that meeting and a follow-up investigation turned up nothing. She believes that doctors are either involved, ignore where the organs came from, don’t ask questions, or are in denial.
Most traffickers orchestrate the recruitment of the donor when those are in a place of vulnerability. On top of that, the victims are not necessary properly screened for their qualifications to be a healthy donors, yet desperate patients in need of an organ may fall prey to a trafficker who could be posing as someone from a respected organization. However, when we’re talking about the victims, they may not just be victims of organ trafficking but they might also be involved in other forms of human traffickings, such as sex and/or labor. This creates a multi-level equation of exploitation that has been known under the term “transplant tourism”. But there is also another reason for that term. In most countries, the buying and selling of organs are illegal, yet there are few laws that restrict an individual from leaving their country to obtain an organ from someone abroad, which has caused a boom in companies that cater to such “transplant tourism” but only match up recipients with donors who are willing to do so.
How Do They Obtain Organs
Besides being victims of human trafficking, there are many other ways that those working in this illegal trade obtain organs. Organized crime syndicates work behind the scenes and their methods are varied. Sometimes the person is tricked into giving up their organ in ways such as having this so-called patient being treated for a sickness they don’t have and the traffickers make off with their organ. Sometimes people are forced into it. But most often, it is the cash payout that draws people in to make such drastic decisions. Though even then they can be cheated. There have been cases where a person decides to sell their organs, such as a kidney or a piece of their liver, but gets duped and ends up with a much lower amount than what they were promised beforehand.
From The Poor To The Rich
As many working in organizations that aim to stop organ trafficking, as well as law enforcement, have come to comment, the high demand for organ transplants, especially kidneys, has set up a depressing yet familiar dynamic. That is a trial of organ harvesting from the poor to the rich in the United States and other countries. Essentially from the global South, to the global North. It has been documented that the poorest slums of the world supply kidneys, for example, to donors in the U.S, Europe, UK, Canada, as well as notably, Israel. It had also been revealed that the United Nations are even looking into reports that ISIS, which is one of the wealthiest terrorist groups ever, may have also started profiting from the business of selling the organs of their victims. Nickolay Mladenov, a UN special envoy, had said that the matter is currently being investigated. The aforementioned Scherper-Hughes had said that organ trafficking in wartimes is not uncommon. Especially one with undisciplined armies. But just how much money is being made from this illegal trade? Read on to find out just how much your organs could fetch you on the black market.
Organ Trade Profits
One of the most known, yet at the same time surprising, part of illegal organ trafficking is the money that it can bring it. And no surprise with the amount of money that organs could fetch on the black market. It has been estimated that the starting price for a kidney can be as high as $62,000, while a liver would be priced at around $150,000. Of course, many other organs are also harvested, a heart has been priced between $130,000 to $160,000 while a pancreas would go between $98,000 to $130,000. Your corneas would fetch around $30,000 while the most profitable would be the lungs where prices start between $150,000 to $170,000. Though of course, the prices vary, those who profit the most from it all, are organ brokers who, after obtaining the organs, cross international lines to find what they call “broker-friendly” hospitals, especially in the U.S to sell the organs to their patients. While they can make as much as $200,000 it is not uncommon for the donor to get $5000. All in all, it is difficult to know exactly how much is made from ‘transplant tourism’ or other means of obtaining the organs, but according to Global Financial Integrity, the illegal organ trade has been estimated to generate approximately $840 million to $1.7 billion annually.
Organ Trafficking In China
When it comes to organ trafficking, Chinese hospitals are a particular concern. According to a report by the Daily Mail, in 2006, a hospital run by the state communist party was exposed for trafficking the organs of prisoners of conscience, which are those who are jailed for having political or religious views that are not tolerated in their country. Despite the fact that a few of the donors, of the 10,000 transplantable organs that are sold out of China each year, are on the official lists, the market has been estimated to be worth $1 billion. Such a topic was portrayed in the documentary “Human Harvest: China’s Organ Trafficking” where international investigators cited evidence that tens of thousands have been killed in the country by Chinese officials to support this illegal trade. Of course, the country’s communist party has denied all allegations of such operations and has claimed that neither transplant centers nor organ harvest programs exist within their borders. But China isn’t the only country that is a concern, read on to find out what other countries exploit their poor.
Organ Trafficking An Issue In Other Countries
Though of course, China is not the only country that has such operations going on. In 2016, the Al Jazeera news portal had reported that a three-person trafficking ring was broken up in Indonesia. There, around 30 villagers in West Java, had sold their kidneys for about $5,000 apiece. But there had been plenty of horror stories such as a Chinese child who had their eyes cut out, possibly for the corneas, an African girl that was kidnapped but then rescued in the UK before her organs could have been harvested. Though the case in the UK proves that it’s not only Asian countries that are areas of concern. In her findings, Scheper-Hughes had revealed that she had seen advertisements requesting organs in newspapers in Brazil, Moldova, and parts of Africa. On top of this, she also witnessed middlemen who were scouring the streets for donors in some countries, holding wads of $100 bills. In China, one ad was said to have stated a kidney would get them $4,000 and a new iPad. In Pakistan, where the illegal kidney trade is fueled by poverty conditions, yields a price of $1,000.
Case Of Kendrick Johnson
One of the most famous cases of suspected organ harvesting took place in the United States in 2013. At the start of that year, on January 17th, a 17-year-old junior at the Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., did not return home from school. The next day, he was found dead, his body rolled up in a wrestling mat that was standing upright in a corner of the school gym with his sock-covered feet sticking out of the top. At the start, his death was deemed a freak accident, yet his loved ones remained skeptical. After a long fight in the courts, his parents finally got an order for the body to be exhumed and autopsied. During the autopsy, the medical examiner had discovered that the Georgia teen’s organs had been removed and replaced with newspaper. Despite multiple investigations, lawsuits, and autopsies, to this day, no one can say for certain whether his death was an accident or a murder for either organ trafficking or otherwise. But is there any way things can change? Read on to find out.
From Funeral Directors To The Slums
Despite the fact that in the United States organ donation is regulated, there are still ways to beat the system via illegal trade. It has been reported that corruptible funeral home directors forge death certificates and consent forms before the human remains are disposed of. Yet, in the developing world, where there are many people living in poverty, things aren’t that tightly regulated. There, people are kidnapped and used for their organs. Reports had also surfaced from various countries about children who had been sold into sexual slavery, sometimes having their organs sold. And when it comes to the poor, living in the slums, there are those who had given up their tissue, a piece of their liver, or their kidney, just to get their hands on a few hundred American dollars.
Change In The Future?
Organizations such as the UN Hub or Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking have made the illegal organ trade one of their top priorities on the list of problems to tackle. It has been theorized that someday, 3D printed organs using stem cells might make organ donation obsolete. However, many reckon that human organ trafficking will remain a serious, global issue as long as global inequality remains unchanged. Especially when desperate people of affluence, and those who are financially desperate, believe that there are huge profits to be had from such trades.
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