Imagine you are in this scenario: your family member or you need an organ transplant. In America, Canada, and even many parts of the world; you would have to be lucky for a generous organ donor to donate the organ to you. Not only that, the organ has to be compatible with your body by matching your blood type, tissue, and doctors will have to check to see if the antibodies would cause rejection of the organ. It seems that the chances of getting that organ transplant are slim.
What if there is an existing market there where you can just purchase the organ you need? As hidden as they try to be, black markets of organ trafficking are known in about a dozen countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And in the United States, organ trafficking is not unheard of. Last year, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, from Brooklyn, N.Y., admitted to purchasing kidneys from Israeli donors and transplanted to three New Jersey recipients. He earned around $410,000 from those transactions.
An anthropologist, Monir Moniruzzaman did fieldwork in Bangladesh on this issue. He interviewed people who sold their kidneys for money and for offers of citizenship in a foreign country. The broker would sway them to give up one of their kidneys by saying things like one of their kidneys is inactive and they only need one kidney to function. Most of the time, the donors are scammed because they get less than the amount of money they were promised to get. Many of the people who gave up their kidneys were handicapped and unable to do manual labor. They are also left with a 20-inch scar around their torsos. If only the organ recipient paid an extra $200, the doctors could have done the surgery laparoscopically to prevent such scarring.
Had the donors known the consequences, would they still give up their kidney for money? It is hard to say because many of the donors are in debt and in need of money to feed their families.
Although organ trafficking is illegal in Bangladesh, it is still prevalent and it does not seem to be hidden at all. There are even advertisements everywhere that imply cash exchanges for organ donations. These black markets create a sense that our organs are products and commodities.
[Photo by Monir Moniruzzaman]