Friday, January 19, 2007

Tsunami Victims Selling Their Kidneys Instead of Fish

Police in India have found still more evidence of a black market in human organs: kidneys being sold illegally by fishermen and their families whose villages, boats, and incomes were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami. The AP reports on what one police officer describes as "a big racket":

"Community leaders in Eranavoor village, just north of Chennai, admitted that about 100 people, mostly women, have sold their kidneys for 40,000-60,000 rupees ($900-$1,350) since the December 26, 2004, disaster." Including: "Thilakavathy Agatheesh, 30, who said she sold a kidney in May 2005 for 40,000 rupees in the hope of setting up a small restaurant -- only to see her alcoholic former fisherman husband waste the money." She told the AP, "I used to earn some money selling fish, but now the post-surgery stomach cramps prevent me from going to work." Which has to make you wonder: Who's removing those organs? Do they know what they're doing? Are they competent surgeons (doubtful)?

I recently did a lengthy Q&A with Amy Friedman (which will appear in the next issue of Proto Magazine). Not long ago, Friedman published a controversial editorial (co-written with her father; they're both kidney experts) titled, "Payment for Living Organ Donation Should be Legalized." Her argument: Living organ donations could solve the massive organ shortage. People are going to sell their organs whether we like it or not, so instead of having a growing and very dangerous black market, we should have a legal market that's closely regulated, where quality is controlled and operations are performed by quality physicians.

Friedman is certainly not alone in her efforts. Just check out And Gregory Pence, bioethicist and author of "Re-Creating Medicine," which includes a chapter called "Re-Creating Organ Donation." Though plenty of people disagree with him, he's been arguing his position for a long time. He says: "The question is not whether any risk of harm exists from commercialization -- it does -- but whether such risk justifies the sacrifice of thousands of dying patients. It doesn't."

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Blogger Chris MacDonald said...

Anyone interested in this topic ought to read James Stacey Taylor's book, "Stakes and Kidneys: Why Markets In Human Body Parts Are Morally Imperative."

8:52 AM  
Blogger K-Oh said...

Disturbing and fascinating-- as so many of your posts are.

6:42 PM  

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