Friday, March 23, 2012

Selling and buying kidneys

What would persuade you to sell a kidney to a stranger? For the Bangladeshi kidney sellers interviewed by Monir Moniruzzaman, an assistant professor in anthropology at Michigan State University, the answer was simple: poverty. An illegal organ trade in Bangladesh connects wealthy transplant seekers with poor people enticed, often with false promises, to sell parts of their bodies. Moniruzzaman uses the phrase "bioviolence" to describe the exploitation.

How much is a Bangladeshi's kidney worth? The average quoted price is $1,500. Yet an estimated 81 percent of the sellers don't even receive the money they were promised.

Organ brokers tell the story of "the sleeping kidney": One kidney sleeps, the other kidney works, so people don’t need two kidneys. Doctors turn on the sleeping kidneys and extract the old kidney and give it to the recipient. Doctors say a kidney operation is a routine procedure; it saves a life and there is no harm to the donors.The whole recruitment of donors is a package of deception, manipulating the Bangladeshi poor.

Those selling their kidneys often receive more-invasive surgery than necessary because buyers want to avoid the extra $200 cost. All sellers except one had a long scar about 15 to 20 inches long [38.1 to 50.8 centimeters] on their bodies. They did not know that if the brokers or recipients paid $200 more, the surgeons could have used laparoscopic surgery, which requires the incision as small as 3 or 4 inches [7.6 to 10.2 centimeters]. After the surgery, sellers experience physical problems like long-term back pain, an inability to pay for follow-up care, social stigma, difficulties working that aggravated their poverty, and psychological trauma.

There are many kidney patients who follow ethics and think of organ trafficking as an illegal, unethical act. They have access to it and they decline to take that route in life. But many recipients in are unable to get donations from family members or why put a family member at risk, rather, get a kidney from the market because the market is out there. The price is the price of a laptop.

Organ trafficking is the commercialisation of medicine: More transplants mean more profit. There are many good hospitals, but there are some private hospitals that turn a blind eye. How come they don't know when the broker is bringing in 10 sellers at a time? There is no interview; on paper, everything that is happening is a "donation", but in real life, it is selling and buying.

Adapted from this interview

Capitalism can indeed be described as vampire-like, sucking life from the poor.

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