Kids sold as donors?
Provided by: Sun Media
Written by: TAMARA CHERRY
Feb. 15, 2008
Organ brokers prey on the ‘socially marginalized, desperate, disabled or young’
MedicalAdoptions.com suggests just that, leaving UN officials wondering whether the so-called adoption agency is a hoax or another unnerving layer to the ever-growing human trafficking industry of organ transplants.
The web site, which surfaced at a discussion yesterday about organ trafficking during the second day of the UN’s global forum to fight human trafficking, claims to be a Kentucky-based adoption agency that sells parents the “perfect match … for the transplant of one or more of ‘non-essential’ organs to be donated to one of the adopting parents or your own children.”
At first glance, the findings are shocking: Children priced according to their category — platinum, gold, bronze or onyx, with first world children listed as platinum and third-world as onyx.
“Your new child will give of themselves the same love you will give unto them,” the web site says.
But upon closer analysis, the phone number given cannot be reached and the address — the same listed for other companies online — cannot be located on a map.
“It’s not beyond the realm of the possible that you could adopt a child and also use a child as a donor,” California-based Nancy Sheper-Hughes, considered a leading expert of organ trafficking, said in an interview.
“If you have baby markets, you cannot stop people from exposing those children to harm,” the Organs Watch director said. “There could be real instrumental reasons of wanting that child, which could include wanting that child to serve as a donor to an older child.”
Organ trafficking most recently came under fire with the arrest of Brampton resident Dr. Amit Kumar last week, who was dubbed “Dr. Horror” for his alleged ties to a massive organ transplant ring uncovered in India.
Authorities alleged up to 500 kidneys were sold to foreign clients over the last nine years, with some victims being forced at gunpoint to give up a kidney.
Though Canada’s Human Tissue Donation Act prohibits the purchase, sale “or otherwise deal” of any tissue, body or body part for transplants, said Sheper-Hughes: “Canadians turn out to be big buyers of organs, more than North Americans in the United States.”
Despite “serious efforts” by countries to regulate organ transplants and move toward the use of more deceased donors, “the number of illegal transplantations carried out between 2000 and now has increased tremendously,” said Nicole Maric of the U.N. Office on Drug and Crime.
“It’s fuelled by a growing demand and by unscrupulous traffickers and brokers,” Maric said. “While waiting lists for organs in richer countries are becoming longer and longer, it is an irresistible temptation for people selling organs, especially for those living in poverty.”
Since Sheper-Hughes began studying organ trafficking 10 years ago, she has been laughed out of bureaucratic gatherings and called a liar by medical professionals for talking about something that was, a decade ago, “largely seen as a rumour,” she said.
Studies have shown victims — often from Eastern Europe, India, South America and South Africa — are being coerced or forced into selling organs, yet there remains strong resistance to labelling it a serious crime.
“People really say it’s life-saving. It’s a value to society. It’s something that maybe we should regulate rather than prohibit,” said Sheper-Hughes.
The World Health Organization estimates organ trafficking accounts for 10% of annual kidney transplants.
“We conservatively estimate that some 15,000 kidneys are trafficked each year,” said Sheper-Hughes.
The crime lies in the vulnerability of the victims, experts agree. Most are displaced, socially marginalized, desperate, disabled or young and naive.
“The price on this commodity depends on the value of the population,” said Sheper-Hughes.
A kidney “donor” in the U.S. may be promised $35,000, while those in the Philippines are often quoted $1,500 — if they are paid at all.
“It reproduces all of the racial, ethnic, gender inequities in the world,” she said. “It always involves the exploitation of very poor and very desperate people who don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I think I’m going to sell a kidney,’ unless someone is there and telling them, ‘I’ve got a way to solve your problems.’ “
“Such payment conveys the idea that some persons lack dignity, that they are mere objects to be used by others,” Dr. Luc Noel of WHO said, adding there is a need for “unprecedented effort” in maximizing deceased organ donations, rather than utilizing living people.
It is a crime that involves everyone from top Mafioso players to respected surgeons, travel agents and independent organ brokers. Like human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation, organ trafficking involves networks of perpetrators, corrupt organizations and countless victims who are left stigmatized and ashamed.
“We have to start putting some kind of rationing on organs,” Sheper-Hughes said. “It has become a very special case as though one has a right to transplant, a right to organs, an absolute right.”
“Nothing makes me more angry than people saying to me, ‘I sold an organ because the doctor told me I have one for me and one to sell,'” she said. “Organ sharing among the living should be an exception, not a routine demand.” Let’s start with the dead. Don’t plunge into the bodies of the living.”