by Gunnar Eigener

A 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal about human organs for sale showed a glimpse into yet another aspect of human nature, particularly of the wealthy and elite, that demonstrates our willingness to exploit just about anything possible. It talks about how in the West many people need, yet die, as a result of waiting for organ transplants, especially kidneys and livers. Somehow, this leads to the justifying of creating a global organ marketplace with imagined safeguards in place that would prevent exploitation. Never does it seem to occur to the authors that this entire suggestion is exploitative as they end the article with the belief that, despite initial horror at the idea, eventually ‘the sale of organs would grow to be accepted’.

The bizarre claim in the article that ‘though the poor would be more likely to sell their kidneys and other organs, they also suffer more than others from the current scarcity’ is another example of reassurance to high society that this is an acceptable step to take. The idea that humans should take care of themselves, their physical and mental well-being, seems to evaporate. There are numerous drugs available for all mental ailments and now, it seems, there are literally entire countries of impoverished people willing to sell their organs to get out of a debt pushed on them by the very actions of greed of those who would take advantage of this situation.


Photo: AP

Exploitation for harvesting organs is not new. The Chinese have been persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and political prisoners for many years, removing organs while the person is still alive. In 1999, evidence suggested that the Kosovo Liberation Army harvested the organs of kidnapped nationals before killing them. In India, the very group charged with preventing organ selling, members of the Transplant Authorisation Committee, was found to be brokering deals for the sale of kidneys. During the 1990s, Israeli soldiers were found to have harvested the organs of dead Palestinians. The World Health Organisation estimates that 10,000 operations involving illegally harvested organs take place every year.

According to Global Issues, over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day. According to UNICEF ‘22,000 children die each day due to poverty’. Over 660 million people with no sanitation have to survive on less than $2 a day. For every $1 in aid that goes to developing countries, $25+ goes to debt repayment and it is in these countries that the money comes directly from the people that had nothing to do with acquiring the debt in the first place. And it is in these countries that gangs are increasingly preying on the poor to sell their organs. Grinding poverty, no state support and ever-growing debt is the condition facing many. With gangs offering around $3000 – $4000 for kidneys and livers, the temptation of money must be unbearable.

The idea that harvesting organs should be a simple business transaction reduces any sense of humanity.

This issue is similar to the idea of putting a price tag on nature. It is reduced to a business, with no feelings or thoughts of the consequences, short or long term. It becomes an asset to be purchased and then used to generate more value. Once the concept of pricing up human organs becomes a business market, there is money to be made. A Global Financial Integrity report estimated illegal organ harvesting and operations to be worth between $600 million to $1.2 billion annually. Where there are large profits to be made, comes the risk of cutting corners and exploitation in order to maximise that profit.

Like so many bad things that go on in this world, these problems seem to exist on the other side of the world and rarely impact on our own personal lives in the West. Yet all is not as it seems. In 2012, the first case of a girl smuggled into the UK with the express intention of harvesting her organs was exposed. That one girl was smuggled on her own for this purpose is, sadly, unlikely.


Source: World Health Organisation

The idea that harvesting organs should be a simple business transaction reduces any sense of humanity. To encourage the idea that we are actually doing someone a favour by taking and paying for their kidney instead of caring for our own bodies and not filling it with toxic processed foods and pollution of all sorts shows how much our society is beginning to scrap the bottom of the barrel. Is it not enough that we are complicit in these poor countries being pillaged for their natural resources, their homes razed to the ground to accommodate more farmland to feed already obese nations, that we now have to start taking their body parts so that people in the ‘developed’ countries can live their lazy lifestyle for even longer? Apparently not. Our media will slowly and insidiously let the idea grow that the organ business is just, beneficial for all and before we even notice it, some companies will be branching out into new business ventures.

The lines are beginning to blur between human decency and human greed.

The recent exposure of tax avoidance in the Panama papers has shown the extent to which the rich and elite go to protect and hide their money. While this has consumed the headlines, it becomes increasingly frustrating to see how much the other end of the spectrum is ignored. For although we shout about how disgusted we are with the wealthy and extravagant, they still claim a lot of our attention.

The lines are beginning to blur between human decency and human greed. Every taboo that is overturned and ‘normalised’ risks our sense of direction. The rate at which we are starting to accept the criminalising of the poor as necessary, the destruction of nature as irrelevant and the actions of the elite as not subject to law, the closer we come to losing any sense of self-worth.


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