The illegal trade in kidneys has risen to such a level that an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving purchased human organs now take place annually, or more than one an hour, according to World Health Organisation experts..
Patients, many of whom will go to China, India or Pakistan for surgery, can pay up to $200,000 for a kidney to gangs who harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000.
Iran, however, is the only country where the buying and selling of kidneys is completely legal. And it turns out it’s a buyer’s market: for those trying to sell a kidney, there is a lot of competition.
Here’s how The Guardian describes the scene:
In order to advertise her kidney, Marzieh has written her blood type and her phone number on pieces of paper and has posted them along the street close to several of Tehran’s major hospitals, home to the country’s major kidney transplant centres.
Others have done the same. Some have written in big letters or in bright colours to attract attention; some have sprayed their information on the walls of public or even private properties.
“Kidney for sale,” reads one ad, carrying the donor’s blood type, O+, and a mobile number, with a note emphasising “urgent”, insinuating that the donor is prepared to consider discounts. Another similar ad reads: “Attention, attention, a healthy kidney for sale, O+.” Many are handwritten, though some have typed the ads to make them look better. “24 years old, kidney for sale,” another reads. “Tested healthy.”
Iran’s controversial kidney procurement system is regulated by the CASKP and the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases. These charities facilitate the process by finding potential vendors and introducing them to the recipients, and are charged with checking the compatibility of a possible donation and ensuring a fair trade
After the transplant, the vendor is compensated by both the government and the recipient. In an interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency, the CASKP’s director, Mostafa Ghassemi, estimated the total official price list to be around 7m rials, of which 1m is paid by the government. Iranians are not allowed to donate kidneys to non-citizens. Ghassemi estimated that in 2010, a total of 2,285 kidney transplants took place in Iran, of which 1,690 kidneys were supplied from volunteers and 595 from those clinically brain-dead.
Reading of Iranians so desperate they will compete to sell their kidneys may seem far removed from your life, but think again. In 2010, a study from the University of Pennsylvania on living organ donation asked the question, “Would you give up your kidney if you were paid well to do so?”
It found that the higher the payment, the more people were willing to go under the knife.
What do you think? Would you give up a kidney if you were paid handsomely?
Photo Credit: Mr Magoo ICU