Sunday, March 16, 2008

For Sale: Kidney in Good Condition

Six thousand American dollars, sometimes even less, is what drives very desperate and very poor individuals to sell one of their kidneys.

The practice is not only brutal but extremely unfair to the very people who sacrifice the most. It is also illegal around the world, which in turn generates a very lucrative black market of international proportions. Sadly, those responsible not only profit from human misery but usually get away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

"The purchase of organs from living persons or the provision of economic incentives to the kin of deceased donors, has been opposed by many international medical and human rights organizations*. In 1985, 1987, and again in 1994" (Scheper). Which of course does nothing to prevent the situation since these procedures usually take place in countries like South Africa, a true "paradise" for the specialty, with their state of the art medical facilities and their relaxed laws to enforce sanctions or prosecute criminally. (MacLaughin, Prusher).

In the meantime those who "donate" their organs face a gloomy dilemma: Can they afford not to do it? Six thousand dollars in a country like Brazil or The Philippines can be a great opportunity to escape the desperate conditions they live in. It certainly can buy not only a lot of food but a decent roof too for the humble houses they’re confined to.

"Transplant tourism".

The situation in Eastern Europe is even worse. With entire networks of physicians, transplant centers, traveling facilitators, interpreters, and scores of greedy "donors", who in extreme cases offer their own relatives, specially young children for the carnage. (Vaknin)

It is argued that the practice fills a much desperate need, that too many people die hopelessly from lack of proper donors, if at all available. Waiting periods can go on for years, and specially with kidneys, the medical expenses are simply prohibitive for most patients. It is much cheaper in the long run to just buy the organ than to spend a fortune in dialysis which "will only prolong their agony anyway".

Is there a solution to the problem then? Organ trafficking results from ridiculously long waiting lists and the much better quality of live donations, not to mention the extreme financial situation of those who sell them. Some propose that the practice should be legalized and regulated but then ethical issues come to the negotiating table, much more sensitive than the ones involved already. Human blood and plasma are sold after all in many countries and we seem to have become fairly accustomed to the idea, perhaps regulated organ sale isn’t such a bad idea after all…

MacLaughin, Abraham. "What is a Kidney worth?" The Christian Science Monitor.

Scheper, Nancy. "The Global Traffic in Human Organs".

Vaknin, Sam. "Organ Trafficking in Eastern Europe". United Press International.

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