In this article, Jordan Hetherington continues our discussion of the many places in which illegally trafficked organs originate, and the factors which contribute to the continued propagation of the organ trade.
Organ trading occurs in many countries around the world, both legally and illegally. In recent times, many countries that originally traded organs legally have passed legislation preventing the sale of organs; however, in almost all cases this has not stopped the trafficking and sale of organs. Countries that have had, at least for some time, relatively sound legal organ trading systems include India, Iran and China; however many other countries indulge in illegal organ trafficking to this very day.
Up until 1994, India had a sound legal organ trading system. India was once one of the largest kidney trading and transplant centers in the world— kidneys are one of the most commonly traded organs— as the low cost and easy availability brought in business from all corners of the world. After the development of the drug Cyclosporine (an anti-organ-rejection drug), many impoverished people saw donating their kidneys as a way to make money, and as one in every three people in India live in what is defined as 'extreme poverty', selling an organ for cash was seen as an 'attractive' possibility. While many Indians sold their kidneys for a fair amount of money, others were conned into parting with their kidney for very little payment. Despite many other countries in the world believing that the harvesting of organs from live donors for money is unethical and wrong, India had become known as an international center for kidneys (and other organs). However, after a plague of economical and ethical problems in the country's organ trading and trafficking system, the Indian government passed legislation that banned the trading of organs.
In Iran, it is legal to sell organs for money, and as a result there are no waiting lists for kidney transplants. The sale of kidneys is usually well regulated; however, some illegal transations still occur. Organizations such as The Charity Association for the Support of Kidney Patients (CASKP) and the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases (CFSD) are responsible for controlling the trade in organs (with aid from the government). These organisations are responsible for matching up organs with recipients, and then setting up an array of tests to ensure that the donor and recipient are compatible. The donors are paid for their services; the average payment is around $1200 for a kidney donation.
In China, organs are mostly taken from executed prisoners; about 90% of all organ transplants in China originate from these sources. Nonetheless, China suffers from a shortage of organs for transplantation and its prisoner donation system has received international criticism on the bias of its disregard for human rights. As a result of this scrutiny and criticism, the Chinese government banned the legal sale of organs; however, they have yet to pass legislation preventing the collection of organs from deceased convicts who signed agreements to this effect before their death.
Unfortunately, after organ trading was outlawed in these countries, many individuals illegally sold their organs (specifically kidneys) in order to earn some money. However, as there was little education about the health dangers associated with organ transplantation, many did not consider the health risks before undergoing this traumatic surgery.
Egypt is one of the top countries involved in the illegal trafficking of organs. Until very recently, Egypt did not have any laws banning the sale of human organs; doctors estimate that as many as 1,500 illegal transplants take place per year. As of 2010 the World Health Organization identified Egypt as a “hub” for organ trafficking and as one of the top 5 organ trafficking hotspots in the world. 40% of the Egyptian population live on less than $2 a day and as such selling their organs is what many people believe to be an easy way to make money. Egypt mainly traffics organs such as the kidneys and the liver, with some donors receiving up to $2000 for their organs— a relatively low price considering the immense risks to their health that the operations to remove these organs, and the continued absence of said organs, cause.
The European country Moldova is also identified as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to organ harvesting. Kidneys harvested there are known as the cheapest in Europe. The export of organs as well as body materials brings currency into the country and as such many people trade organs for the profit. Despite the popularity of trading organs, thousands of Moldavians go missing every year, and are often discovered with several of their organs removed. Out of the suspected 65 kidney harvesting 'hotspots', the World Health Organisation suspects that of the 700 kidney organs illegally transplanted annually, about 10% originate in Moldova.
Throughout the world organ trafficking is still carried out by many “civilised” countries; under the veil of civilisation and legislation, organ trafficking remains one of the world’s top problems.