Organ Trafficking and The Black Market

Living in a world with modern medicine and technology there is no doubt that organ transplants can save one’s life. Now, this is where the major issue comes into play, although giving everyone perfectly adequate organs seems to be a quick fix there are simply not enough organs available to meet the existing need. It is illegal to sell or purchase human organs anywhere around the world but since there is such a demand it has resulted in the creation of the “Black Market”.

The Black Market is where transactions for goods or services are illegally made. There are over 91 countries that take part of the global black market and those specifically focusing on human organ trafficking would be countries in the Middle East and South Asian Nations. Organ Trafficking is a great issue that society is facing today especially those in third world countries being attacked by traffickers, those who are desperately in need of an organ and have spent years waiting on a list and it severely impacts the economy of the countries involved due to the black market.

Organ trafficking is thriving in the global market, the continuing demand for organs is fueling the need for more and those in need for organs are taking advantage of the poor who are selling their organs. Organ brokers are typically individuals who come from very developed and wealthy countries. They usually go after those living in third-world countries knowing that giving them a mere fraction of their wealth wouldn’t make a dent in their accounts.

They find communities that have very slim to no chances of escaping the grasps of poverty and strategically approach healthy individuals who would be willing to sell their organs for a little bit of money. Organ trafficking accounts for 15% of all kidney transplants worldwide. A kidney on the black market is approximately sold for $262,000. Sellers approach those who are in need of money. Third world countries do not have safe and sanitary procedures, individuals are willing to give their organs despite the risk of an infection and no follow up treatment.[footnoteRef:1] Poor/ lower class people can earn roughly $3000-$150000 or as little as $60 for selling their organs specifically their kidneys[footnoteRef:2]. Earning less than a third of how much it is sold for. In early 2016 a BCC interview had taken place with an Iraqi family that was struggling with poverty and in order to make ends meet the husband and wife had decided to sell their kidneys for some money. 22.5% of Iraq’s population of roughly 30 million people live in the depth of poverty. Ali Hussein (husband) was unemployed, diabetic, and suffered from heart problems, his wife Om Hussein was the “breadwinner” of the family and had been providing for the past nine years over the years she has gotten tired and exhausted and said, “I’ve decided to sell my kidney I could no longer provide for my family.”[footnoteRef:3] After discussing with an illegal trader their kidneys were not sufficient for the trade due to them being in such malnourished states. Young children are being kidnapped and found abandoned with pieces of their body missing or being sold to the black market for their families to make a profit. In 2013, a missing 6-year-old boy in China was found alone in a field, crying. Upon closer inspection, both eyes had been removed, presumably for the corneas[footnoteRef:4].

  1. Borgen, Clint. ‘Organ Trafficking and the Poor.’ The Borgen Project. June 01, 2015. https://borgenproject.org/organ-trafficking-and-the-poor/.
  2. Arsenault, Chris. ‘Organ Trafficking: ‘Her Heart Was Missing’.’ Latin America | Al Jazeera. May 17, 2011. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/05/2011515153229450357.html.
  3. Maher, Ahmed. ‘Iraqi Families Sell Organs to Overcome Poverty.’ BBC News. April 20, 2016. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36083800.
  4. ‘Body Snatchers: Organ Harvesting For Profit.’ Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201311/body-snatchers-organ-harvesting-profit.

Currently there are more than 113,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list, The United Network for Organ Sharing also known as UNOS. 2 out of every 3 people are over the age 50 and almost 2,000 are under the age of 18[footnoteRef:5]. Approximately 18 of those people will day everyday just waiting, once someone is added to the list, they can be on the list waiting for 3-5 years some more than others and that also depends on the condition of who needs the organ more, but as time passes, they can get sicker. Being on the waitlist is a very critical and hard time for people and that is why many looks towards to illegal trade. Most customers are coming from the United States and Western Europe, these patients are vulnerable and extremely sick. Surprisingly the procedure for American patients go buy an illicit organ is to go online and look for these services. Countries such as China that has the highest execution rate has a supply of health organs ready to go. In China patients would have to compete for the organ in a bidding war the highest bid wins the organ[footnoteRef:6]. The World Health Organization has implemented guidelines that forbid buying or selling organs. However, these guidelines are nonbinding, and the international Illegal trade has managed to find a loophole and slip through the cracks of the law of countries and their own local laws. The trade is international firm that anyone who has a mere connection with someone is enough for countries to get a line on organs, thousands of illegal transactions take place every year[footnoteRef:7]. In 2014, 4761 Americans died waiting for a kidney transplant, another 3668 dropped off the list because they became too sick to receive a kidney. Legally donated organs met less than 10% of global needs. There is no surprise when patients turn to the black market not only buying an organ but buying themselves more time. By recently legalizing the sale of kidneys Iran has managed to avoid the harsh backlash of the Black Market. 55% of Iranian kidneys are given from living donors are those kidneys are more sustainable in the long run whereas in the United States majority of the donations come from deceased donors and those do not keep the recipients healthy in the long run[footnoteRef:8]. Although the illegal trade and black market is a dangerous and very harmful place, the current situation of the national health system is simply not enough and has left patients with no other option but to take drastic measures.

  1. 5: ‘Organ Donation Statistics.’ Organ Donor. https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html.
  2. 6: Arsenault, Chris. ‘Organ Trafficking: ‘Her Heart Was Missing’.’ Latin America | Al Jazeera. May 17, 2011. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/05/2011515153229450357.html.
  3. 7: Inglis-Arkell, Esther, and Esther Inglis-Arkell. ‘How Do You Buy Organs on the Black Market?’ Io9. December 16, 2015. https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-do-you-buy-organs-on-the-black-market-5896323.] [8: Houser, Kristin. ‘Black Market Bodies: Legalizing the Sale of Human Organs Could save Lives.’ Futurism. January 09, 2019. https://futurism.com/sale-human-organ.

The black market is an illegal operation of goods and services, although it is an off- the -books trade but the money involved is not. The money earned from illicit activities is also referred to as “underground money” and it severely disturbs our economy. Employment in the black- market accounts for 15-18% of the employment rate in certain countries involved. In third world countries not, many people have the ability to get an education and pursue a career, the black-market gives them the opportunity to make money and provide for their families. Analyst have estimated that underground economic transactions account for more than one third of the total economy in third world countries[footnoteRef:9]. The black-market is a place where one can get goods at reasonable costs and not having to pay any additional fees or taxes on the product. The market significantly impacts the income and supply and demand for many local manufactures and businesses. As the black-market consumption/ customers increases many manufactures would make their products according to the markets sales. For example, the manufacturing on guns and other mechanical weapons. Gun manufactures do not use gun owners to measure their market instead they look at the profit being made from illegal sales[footnoteRef:10]. Since these transactions are not documented they disrupt the accuracy of a country’s gross domestic product. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States is dependent on the GDP (gross domestic product) in order to set interest rates and other matters involving money, this can negatively impact the economy. A 2011 study predicted that if all illicit economic activities were to be legalized it would generate $400-$500 billion in annual revenue[footnoteRef:11]. That money earned would severely help communities in need.

  1. 9: Bloomenthal, Andrew. ‘How the Underground Economy Affects GDP.’ Investopedia. April 26, 2019. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets-economy/062216/how-underground-economy-affects-gdp.asp
  2. 10: Study.com. https://study.com/academy/lesson/black-market-definition-effects-on-the-economy.html.
  3. 11: Koba, Mark. ‘How Big Are Underground Payrolls? Try $2 Trillion.’ CNBC. April 26, 2013. https://www.cnbc.com/id/100668336.

Due to the insufficient supply of organs for transplant, thousands of people are suffering while waiting on a list. This waiting has left people with no other option be to look towards the International Black Market. Selling and purchasing human organs is illegal in call countries besides Iraq legalizing the transactions of kidneys. The Black Market sell numerous items but more specifically focusing on organs, they usually come from the Middle East and South Asian countries, and overall 91 countries part take in the trade. The demand for organs from those on the waitlist had led to organ trafficking and those in third world countries are selling their organs for money also it funds the black market which severely impacts the economy of countries.

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