With a world wide shortage of organs, the black market organ and tissue trade has grown out of control due to the rising demand from the sick and dying. This shortage of organs is fueling an illicit business of buying and selling all sorts of organs and tissues, often through involuntary donation. While it would be nice to have an ample supply of organs and tissues for sick people that desperately need them, the black market organ and tissue trade needs more enforcement in order to cease the profiteering of immoral and unethical transplanting of organs from human to human.
The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. In the United States, over 101,000 people are on the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network waiting list, but there are only about1100 donors ("Data"). According to OrganDonor.Gov, 19 people die each day waiting for life-saving organ transplants ("The Shortage"). Society as a whole needs to find a humane answer to this widening gap.
One way organs and tissues arrive on the black market is from living donors. The desperation of some people that become financially destitute is dumbfounding. Why anyone in perfectly good health would sell any part of their body is beyond my comprehension. I understand the principle of donating an organ to help someone that needs it in order to survive, but parting with an organ for the sole reason of profit is crazy. If I were in this situation, even if the money was needed to feed my family, I have a hard time seeing myself ever doing something so extreme. There has to be another way. The lengths that some people will go for money stretch as far as selling a cornea, which leaves the donor blind in that eye ("Experts warn"). Usually these illegal organs sell to the highest bidder. Other body parts that can be harvested are veins, bones, skin, intestine, heart, lungs, and many other parts of the anatomy ("Organ Donation Statistics"). I have a friend who has a cadaver ACL in his knee that was donated legally. His doctor told him that the ligament to be replaced was beyond repair because he tore the ligament too many times. The only viable option was another actual ligament that hadn't been damaged before, one from a cadaver. I have heard of synthetic repairs for this procedure, but apparently they are an inferior option to the real body part meant to be there. Certain parts of the anatomy can also be used for reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. For example, burn victims often need skin grafts and trauma patients sometimes need reconstructive surgery using pieces of bone. Sometimes the tissues can be supplied from the patient's own body.
Using the black market to acquire organs is also dangerous. Poor medical practices in third world countries abroad can't possibly provide the level of care available in well developed countries like the United States. Often surgery takes place in makeshift operating rooms. Stories abound of converting shanties and whole levels of hotels into wards. Infections have and do occur. A study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed the aftereffects of 33 people that traveled outside the United States for kidney transplants. One year after surgery, 30% of the kidneys were rejected by the patients, including one death. This is a higher percentage than normal compared to transplants done in the United States ("Obtaining Kidney Transplants"). The risk of infection applies to the donor as well. Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Aziz lives in the slums of Cairo. He sold his kidney for US$2300. A year after his surgery his health became so poor he could barley walk around his apartment. "If anyone had made clear to me the danger, I wouldn't have done it," he said ("Couple scarred"). What benefit is gained from selling an organ if you get an infection and die? Money is useless when you're dead.