Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Red Market: from grave robbers to organ brokers in India

Laura Miller at Salon reviews "The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers"

"It includes vivid, on-the-spot reports from Indian "bone farms," where remains looted from graveyards are processed into skeletons for Western anatomy students (hundreds of reeking bones left out to bleach in the sun) and tsunami refugee camps where most of the residents bear the scars of kidney "donations."
"Poor people supply human flesh in various forms for rich people, while a well-meaning ethical system of anonymity and mandated "altruism" allows middlemen to siphon off most of the profits.

      "When the supply isn't sufficient to the demand, some enterprising individuals take it upon themselves to even things up.
"Carney argues that the inequities of the red market were only exacerbated by regulations like the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, which prohibited the sale of human organs and tissue and was championed by then-Sen. Al Gore as a way to make sure that the human body could not be treated as "a mere assemblage of spare parts." Although Carney is no fan of the market philosophy that would reduce our bodies to salable "widgets," he thinks we need to face up to the fact that altruistic donation will never provide as much of these precious materials as we desire. "As a society we neither want to accept open trade in human tissue, nor do we want to reduce our access to life-extending treatments. In other words, we want to have our cake and eat it, too."

HT: Steve Leider (who knows something about repugnant markets)

And here's the NY Times review.

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