Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The black market for kidneys in South Asia

It sounds like you can buy a kidney in India, and have it transplanted in Sri Lanka. But it isn't clear how large the market is compared to the vast worldwide demand or even to the number of legal kidney  transplants around the world (in the US we have about 17,000) a year). When I say it isn't clear, I mean that the story is based mostly on anecdotal information from market participants...
However I can supply an additional anecdote about social media: almost every morning as I get ready to publish my blog post for the day, I delete spam "comments" on previous posts about kidneys, offering phone numbers to call if you want to sell yours...

Al Jazeera has the story:
Need a kidney? Inside the world’s biggest organ market
The illicit kidney trade in South Asia has exploded as brokers use social media to find donors.

""If you have the money and want it fast, you come here. I will find you a donor and you can go home with a new kidney in a month," Vikas told Al Jazeera, speaking on the condition that his real name not be published.

"According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Asia is now the leading transplant tourism hub globally, with India among the top kidney exporters. Each year more than 2,000 Indians sell their kidneys, with many of them going to foreigners.

"This gaping hole between demand and the legal supply of kidneys is being filled by what may be the world's biggest black market for organs, which criss-crosses India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Iran.

"However, in recent years, Sri Lanka's capital Colombo has become the new nerve centre of this network, where most transplant operations are carried out. In recent years, Sri Lanka has attracted kidney buyers from as far afield as Israel and the United States.

"This development came after India tightened its rules on organ exchanges in 2008, following the arrest of a "kidney kingpin" running one of the world's largest kidney trafficking rings. Many donors are also taken to Iran, the only country in the world where selling kidneys is legal, though not to foreigners.

"Anurag, one of the top names in brokering circles, told Al Jazeera that many agents in India and Bangladesh were working at the behest of individual doctors or hospitals based in Colombo who offered "complete packages" to foreign recipients, with prices ranging from $53,000 to $122,000.

"It covers everything - hospital bill, doctor's fee, payment to the donor, his travel and accommodation cost, and, of course, broker's commission. This is the best way because it saves everybody time and hassle," Anurag - who also wanted his real name withheld to avoid trouble - told Al Jazeera from Sri Lanka.

"Although the illicit racket has flourished since the 1990s, social media has catapulted the trade into a new dimension. Brokers like Vikas and Aadarsh are openly lurking on dozens of Facebook pages fashioned as kidney and transplant support groups.

HT: Mohammad Akbarpour

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