Shadow Economies: Harvest Organs From The Poor For The Rich

Living in abject poverty, $10,000 is a beguiling promise. All you have to do is give up one kidney. It’s ok, you have another one. But a Bloomberg Markets Magazine investigation shows how gangs around the world prey on the poor and use threats and violence to get them to give up their organs, which they can then resell for upwards of $150,000. This isn’t just happening in some ice-filled bath in China: this week, a Brooklyn man plead guilty to selling black market kidneys to people in New Jersey.

Around the world, the organs are transplanted by doctors who don’t ask questions into patients who have the money to pay for them. Meanwhile, the people the organs were harvested from are left to suffer the aftereffects of rushed surgery that can leave them ill, or dead. From Bloomberg Markets Magazine:

Dorin Razlog, a shepherd with an eighth-grade education who lives in Ghincauti, says recruiters for a trafficking ring told him cash for a kidney would lift him out of poverty. After doctors in Istanbul cut out the organ in August 2002, they paid him $7,000 — $3,000 less than they’d offered. Of that, $2,500 was in counterfeit bills, he says.

“They told me they would send people to destroy my house and kill my family if I went to the police,” Razlog, 30, says. Today, the money is long gone, and he sleeps on a musty mattress inside the rusting hulk of an abandoned Russian van next to a pigsty. At the end of some days, Razlog says, he’s writhing from pain in his remaining kidney.

“The only way out is death,” he says.

Horrifying, and with the payouts so high, black market organ-trafficking is unlikely to go away, no matter how hard authorities work. The best thing that can happen is for countries to make it safe and easy for individuals to become legal organ donors. Increasing the supply and availability of organs will decrease the economic incentives driving this harvest of human flesh.

Organ Gangs Force Poor to Sell Kidneys for Desperate Israelis [Bloomberg Markets Magazine]
Brooklyn man pleads guilty to trafficking black market kidneys to N.J. residents [The Star-Ledger]