Cold and sore with a blazing headache. You can barely recall what happened the night before, but your abdomen is in pain and you’re sitting in a tub of ice with stitches littering your side. You can’t tell yet, but you’re missing a kidney. You have no idea who did it or how, but you’re confused and afraid.
This nightmare isn’t fiction. The truth is, it happens and it is called organ harvesting. While the chances of this scenario ever happening to you is highly unlikely, being aware that the crime of having your organs taken and sold is important to register.
We’re all aware that human trafficking involving forced labor and sex exist and are a worldwide issue, but organ harvesting, where illegal surgeries take place and organs are taken and sold on the black market, also exists and is – in some ways – a burgeoning market.
Don’t be afraid, while organ harvesting is a thing, it isn’t a crime that happens too much in the United States. However, in other countries such as China, Pakistan, Brazil, and Turkey it is an issue. Additionally, in Iran selling one’s organs is legal. In 2017 Shashank Bengali and Ramin Mostaghim of the Los Angeles Times reported that “Iran offers people a legal way to sell their kidneys — and is the only country in the world to do so. A government foundation registers buyers and sellers, matches them up and sets a fixed price of $4,600 per organ. Since 1993, doctors in Iran have performed more than 30,000 kidney transplants this way.”
In 2010, Denis Campbell and Nicola Davison of The Guardian reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that “kidneys make up 75% of the global illicit trade in organs….Rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are causing demand for kidneys to far outstrip supply.”
The report also notes that “data from the WHO shows that of the 106,879 solid organs known to have been transplanted in 95-member states in 2010 (legally and illegally), about 73,179 (68.5%) were kidneys. But those 106,879 operations satisfied just 10% of the global need.…”
An organ on the black market can cost between $5,000 – $500,00 says Simon Griffin of ListVerse, a publishing company that has been featured in the New York Times, BBC Television World News International, and other sources. Griffin says that pricing depends on the organ, it’s possibility of failure, the person’s survival, and if it can easily be removed and transplanted. Since kidneys are the highest in demand their cost reflects this at roughly $150,000, bones and ligaments around $5,000, and the most expensive are lungs and the heart at between $300,000 – $500,000.
Unfortunately, to provide these organs on the black market, trafficking of humans becomes part of the equation. In December of 2016 in Rawalpindi, which is near the capital city of Islamabad in Pataskin, twenty-four people were rescued after being restrained and held captive in an apartment where they were being kept before having their kidneys sold. Longtime journalist and international correspondent Philip Reeves of NPR reported that some were held there for months with locked doors, barred windows, and lookouts as they awaited be taken to a clinic.
If all of this has you thinking that you’ll never travel again or that you will have to be constantly aware of everyone around you, don’t fret. There are organizations such as The Council of Europe who fight against the trafficking in organs. One way this group has combated the trade is by creating a treaty aimed at eliminating and fighting back against this dilemma. “The dirty business of human organ trafficking causes serious human rights violations that we need to prevent and combat vigorously,” states the council’s secretary general Thorbjørn Jaglan. Trafficking is a monstrous and inhumane act that strikes fear in people worldwide. However, having knowledge of it and spreading the word about it helps protect those who are vulnerable.