Organ Markets

Take 10 Minutes to Listen To This

Art Caplan and Nancy Schepler-Hughes talk about organ trafficking.


Also – read how Nancy tried to tell every law enforcement and public policy agency about Rosenbaum’s kidney trafficking ring, and no one would listen here.

Living Donor Research Living Kidney Donor

Israel Reduces Transplant Tourism

In May 2008, Israel prohibited health insurers to reimburse the cost of illegal transplantation abroad. Since then, the number of transplants performed abroad dropped significantly, from a median of 143 per year during 2006–2008 to <45 per year during 2009–2011. There was a parallel increase in the number of kidney transplantations from living donors, from a median of 56 transplants per year in 2006–2008 to 78 per year in 2008–2011, with a peak of 117 transplants in 2011


The question now is: what will Israel do to protect and care for their living kidney donors?


Full abstract:

Living Kidney Donor Organ Markets

How Legal and Illegal Kidney Trafficking Hurts Everyone

I ran across this scholarly paper the other day, compliments of my google scholar alert. I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety. Below are some excerpts:

The World Health Organization estimates that there is a kidney sold every hour illegally.


After the introduction of cyclosporine (anti-rejection medication) in the mid-70s and global distribution in the 1980s: the kidney took on new meanings; in a living donor, the kidney was now envisaged as a surplus object, an object that could serve wider uses for others…

In this clinical landscape, “the medicalized body” abstracts a person from their parts and made the distancing of the material body from the ‘self’ quotidian.


These new understandings of the body, especially the rhetoric of surplus of one’s other kidney, were quickly normalized and mobilized within medical and patient communities. With transplantation, the living donor’s other kidney was no longer seen as useful to them, but rather of better use elsewhere — in the body of a critically ill patient.


Kalindi Vora argues that the expendability of populations and persons is directly linked to their labour use-value; those who fail to be significant economic actors in the dominant society are not as useful as those who are.
Kidney traffic hinges on division of both the body and of the space in which the body is fragmented. No longer
a ‘gift’, the commercialized kidney renders social relationships through exchange irrelevant. With the division of space which renders donors anonymous, there can be mindful distance of the recipient taking one’s kidney for their own use; this mindful distance is bolstered by the act of monetary compensation to the seller as well as keeps the broker relevant.

Anne Griffin recently detailed the dubious parameters in the criteria used to define the [Iranian] waiting list as ‘eliminated’ in Ghods’s study. Griffin described that poor patients, who largely have to wait for cadaveric donation, since they cannot afford to compensate LRD or LUD’s, were still waiting on kidney transplants; the wait was only over for those with fiscal means. 

(emphasis mine)


Especially in the wake of publications from medical and ethnographic studies of kidney vendors in India, Bangladesh, Iran, and Moldova, variations of the same story were told: selling a kidney never made any significant impact on donor’s economic lives, despite what many economists, bioethicists, and medical professionals claim. What vendors did experience were lost wages, from the post-operative pain and sickness many vendors felt, feelings of deep regret, and societal expulsion in some grave cases. Thus, to promote the dismemberment of the economic underclass as a means of being economically ‘visible’ is both ethically and morally irresponsible. Moreover, rarely mentioned in literature advocating legalized markets (regulated and unregulated) are the risks of nephrectomy to donors or strategies focused on prevention of renal disease.


As Donald Joralemon and Phil Cox aptly state, “if society has a moral duty to rescue, the obligation surely is not limited to rescuing those of means.”

(emphasis mine)


Ethical Considerations Liver Donor Living Kidney Donor Organ Markets

More Proof That Organ Markets Are a Bad Idea

A Michigan State University researcher has found that selling a kidney or liver lobe is becoming more prevalent in Bangladesh, despite its illegality.

The sellers are poverty-stricken, and often in debt, particularly due to micro-loans from NGOs. Desperation leads the vulnerable members of the family unit (usually women) to sell their organs first, followed by other family members when A. the debt has not been fully paid, B. the organ donor/seller is physically compromised and can no longer work, and/or C. the broker reneges on the deal and never remits payment.

Think about it: if one engages in illegal activity and doesn’t get paid, who does one complain to?


Another disgusting layer is the fact that the brokers and recipients are often Bangladeshi-born foreign nationals living in places such as the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Because organ-selling is illegal, the brokers forge documents indicating the recipient and seller are related and claim the act is a family donation.


As Moniruzzaman says in the video (which is well worth watching and only four minutes), “The body parts of the poor are finding their way to the wealthy few.”


Read LDAPT’s other posts on buying and selling kidneys, aka organ markets: click here

Ethical Considerations Living Kidney Donor Organ Markets

Let’s Hear It For Hubris

A Lebanese transplant surgeon not only engaged in the illegal and unethical practice of taking foreigners big checks and passing along (miniscule) portions of them to a poverty-stricken citizens in exchange for a kidney, he published about it – THREE TIMES.

That’s what we call audacity, my friends.


One transplant journal figured it out and retracted three of his papers. You can read about it here:

Transplant journal retracts three papers over possible organ trafficking