Global Traffic in Human Organs

This article is an intended backlash at the widespread organ trafficking taking place across the world under the garb of organ donation. It exposes how the fact that the political, medical establishments and the criminal organisations work in cohorts to keep this process covert. The author Nancy Scheper- Hughes is a professor of Anthropology in the University of California, Berkeley and heads a Doctoral program in Medicine and Society, and is also a member of the Bellagio Task Force on the International Traffic in Organs and a co-founder of Organs Watch- A medical human rights research and documentation centre at U.

C. , along with Prof. Lawrence Cohen . The report is a determined effort to bring to light the various instances of organ trafficking uncovered during five years of active field research in Middle-East, India, China, Brazil, South Africa and U. S. A. by the organisation Organ Watch. Transplant technologies’ move toward the third- world countries seems to have imparted a global scarcity of viable organs over the last 30 yrs; this when the economically lower-strata of people are taken for granted as voluntary or compelled donors.

This fact is exemplified by the recruitment of Kidney- sellers from Prisons, unemployed offices and urban shantytowns. The report cites the example of several third world countries as being thriving markets for organ donors. Chief among them are India and Brazil. The covert socialist China has the dubious distinction as the world’s largest supplier of organs. In Brazil chronic hunger and high levels of unemployment have compelled people to seek alternative sources of income-by exchanging organs for money.

In India the social (illegal) tradition of dowry has forced many a father and brother to trade in their kidney for a dowry. In China the organ market extends beyond the traditional societal realms into the prisons of that republic. Following in the footsteps of capitalist Taiwan where the practice was deemed illegal, the Chinese death row prisoners are the new organ donors. Most of these men/women indicted for petty offences and tax evasion are worthy donors as their consent is not required after execution. The market for kidneys and other organ trade extends in all directions.

In countries where these practices are frowned upon/are unacceptable for social or religious reasons their ‘needy’ citizen’s look for other nations, which are relatively more secular or pluralistic. The Gulf nations and Japan fall under this category. The traditional organ donor seeker markets include the European Nations and the USA. Several newer ‘markets’ have cropped up-Turkey, South Africa, and the war-torn African nations-to meet the growing need for organs. Nancy Scheper- Hughes cites several surrogate outcomes of organ donation.

Among these is obvious ill health from the donation, which could hamper other spheres of life like familial relationships and work. While the donors bear the brunt of the process the recipients too have been known to face problems ranging from rejection of the organ to depression. The author relates the ethical dilemma of this process in that the legalising of organ donation would mean infringing on the dignity of one’s body. On the other hand if one turns a blind eye the black market would most certainly seduce poor people to become unsuspecting victims in this commodification process.

The medical fraternity has been a willing abettor in organ trafficking blatant examples includes cases of organ theft in Colonia Montes de Oca mental asylum, Argentina, a mental asylum. The year 1995-96 observed an unprecedented number of organ trafficking cases as reported by Organs Watch. This report brings to light the apparent imbalance in the excess of human organs in various hospitals (but the dearth of proper transplant facilities) and the apparent scarcity of organs in the legal markets.

It (the report) thus raises several pertinent questions on the commodification of the human organs. Discussion Questions: 1. Is legalisation of organ donation a viable option? What issues would it raise? 2. Can better infrastructure facilities in hospitals discourage organ trafficking? (Can dying patients’ organs be better utilised) 3. What are the bio-ethical dilemmas one encounters when analysing the organ donation question? 4. Are the arguments of those who favour organ donation viable? What social, cultural and political implications could such arguments have if implemented?