Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tales from the Organ Trade: documentary on kidney black markets

Tales from the Organ Trade investigates the black market of organ trafficking
A documentary filmmaker investigates the organ trade and questions her beliefs.

Should people be allowed to sell their organs?
That question lingers in Tales from the Organ Trade , a documentary by Toronto’s multiple award-winning filmmaker Ric Bienstock, making its North American premiere at Hot Docs , April 28, 29 and May 2.
The film won Best Sign of the Times Doc Award from New Zealand's documentary festival, where it had its world premiere last week.
Narrated by David Cronenberg, it’s an unflinching look at international organ trafficking, capturing, for the first time, the point of view of all participants in one operation.
Kidney disease is skyrocketing and transplant is the only way to survive for hundreds of thousands of people. With the desperately poor willing, and opportunistic surgeons able, there’s little hope of containing the spread, Bienstock says.
Globally it’s illegal to buy organs, a position Bienstock agreed with at first.
“I expected it to be a very black and white story when I set out,” she says. “Then I realized there was a lot of moral ambiguity.”
The film focuses on a trafficking ring run out of a Kosovo clinic, involving a Turkish surgeon, an Israeli facilitator and a Canadian prosecutor — and a Toronto man who purchases a kidney from a woman in Moldova.
Most disquieting is the footage from the Philippines, where donating a kidney is almost a rite of passage for young men. Viewers may find themselves actually hoping one wannabe donor finds a buyer — a young man trying to lift his family out of poverty. Another young donor gets sick and discovers he has kidney disease, after it’s too late for him and the unknown recipient.
Bienstock confesses to feeling sadness, not relief, for the man whose kidney is rejected due to the film crew’s presence. “He really wanted to buy that house in the country and he’ll never be able to,” she says.
The Philippine men, primarily labourers, also have scars that take months to heal, and no follow-up health care.
“That is why (some) are arguing for regulation,” Bienstock says. “It should be done properly. People who donate should be at the peak of their health.”
"“People are finding their way to these illegal operations when they are desperate enough,” Bienstock says. “We need to find a solution and we need to be open to think uncomfortable thoughts.”

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