Evil Trade

Unknown Author

Every year thousands die because they do not get an organ transplant but in some countries organs are being stolen. Heard about the man who wakes up In an ice-filled bath with a fresh scar on his side and a note thanking him for donating a kidney? Don’t worry, it’s just a myth! (isn’t it?).

Worry, instead, about the real victims of organ theft because for them awakening never comes. The need for organs is high and wherever there is a demand then someone somewhere will profit by it. Every year thousands of people die because do not receive organ transplants in time. But for those who can afford it and are unscrupulous enough, there is an alternative.

The sale of human body parts is big business and for the right price the more sinister side of the medical community will supply organs, even if it means having to steal them. In nations that have massive populations, such as China and India, body -parts are worth much more than the lives of their owners.

Two Chinese men were arrested last year in New York when they allegedly attempted to sell human organs to undercover FBI agents. Wang Chengyong, 42, a former prosecutor on Hainan Island in southern China, and Fu Xingqi,36, were caught in an FBI sting after Chengyong was said to have approached a dialysis centre in New York and attempted to sell human body parts.

Chengyong allegedly signed contracts with undercover FBI agents posing as administrators of the dialysis centre for the sale of kidneys harvested from executed Chinese prisoners. Fu was released on $150,000 bail. His lawyer said he was simply the owner of a Chinese laundry in New York and had been used as a translator. Chengyong was held without bail.

The charges caused US-China State Department problems and in March, when a witness refused to testify and fled to China, the case was dropped. “We estimate there are about 6000 prisoners executed in China each year,” William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty international, USA, said: “About 90 per cent of transplanted kidneys come from these executed prisoners.”

Bodies and their organs are confiscated after execution in China. Deaths of prisoners are tailored to transplant needs: a bullet in the head for kidneys, lungs, livers or hearts; a bullet in the chest for corneas. In recent years, China has expanded crimes punishable by death, possibly because of the big money that organs bring.

Foreigners pay $5000 for corneas $20,000 for kidneys and $40,000 for livers in addition to $40,000 for the transplant operation.

Near New Delhi, three leading Indian transplant surgeons, the owner of the Noida Medicare, a hospital famed for transplants, and six others were arrested after a mechanic complained he had been drugged and robbed of a kidney during a routine medical examination. Indian police said stolen kidneys were being sold for between $6000 and $10,000.

In Bangalore, India, 80 peasants showed police their kidney transplant scars and claimed they were robbed. But police say that most of them sold their kidney for $1,000 - more than a year’s salary for an Indian labourer - and were now seeking more money through the courts.

In Russia, bodies are owned by the government and must be turned over immediately to authorities. Gruesome pictures have surfaced of tables filled with bodies of men and women whose organs can be picked over for body parts.

In London, Raymond Crockett, a Harley Street physician who also practised at the National Kidney Centre, was struck off the medical register after an investigation into transplant operations in which kidneys were removed from Turkish donors who had been brought to London and paid for organs.

These are the cases that authorities know of. But most organ theft stories are simply rumours, like the one of the man In the ice-filled tub.

Les Olson, director of procurement for the University of Miami transplant program, said: “To harvest an organ takes two transplant coordinators, two surgeons, an anesthesiologist and a nursing team. “The idea that someone could do this on their own in the bathroom of a hotel is pure fantasy.”

Reports about organ thefts go back a long way. In 1768, the family of a deformed French prince in Lyons was rumoured to be kidnapping children and moving their arms to substitute for their son’s withered limb. More recently a story surfaced in France of a boy lost at EuroDisney in the morning and found in the evening minus a kidney.

Surgeons scoff at these reports but they have sinister origins. In 1986, the Soviet news agency Pravda, in a KGB propaganda campaign, spread stories of children being adopted in Latin America and taken to the US where they were murdered for their organs These rumours continued in Guatemala’s largest newspaper, La Prensa Libre, which kept alive organ-theft hysteria long after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Organ thefts disturbed the Euro parliament so much that it passed resolutions condemning them.”

The Sunday Times said “Bodies can be worth a small fortune. Some foreigners have been known to pay $5,000 for corneas, $20,000 for kidneys and $40,000 for livers.” There was also mention of $50,000 for a lung and $60,000 for a heart”.