The Market for Organs

Review of The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers by Scott Carney:

The most alarming allegations cited in this book come from a 2006 … which suggested that vital organs (including kidneys, corneas and livers) had been harvested on a large scale from executed members of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual group in China. Dangerous political dissidents were executed while their organs created a comfortable revenue stream for hospitals and surgeons, and presumably many important Chinese officials received organs.”

See our previous post on the international market for human eggs.

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Devon Herrick says:

    I watched a PBS documentary on body snatchers — unscrupulous mortuary owners that set up business to sell organs and then harvest parts that were never donated. One famous victim is the British journalist, Alistair Cooke.

  2. Larry C. says:

    The market for organs can be grusome.

  3. Kennedy says:

    I wonder if cases like this will become more or less commonplace as time goes on. I also wonder if countries other than China currently engage in this sort of thing.

  4. Brian Williams. says:

    Reminds me of a 1978 movie called Coma.

  5. Virginia says:

    Did you guys read the Wired article about forced blood donation in India? The culture frowns on blood donation, so hospitals are at a chronic shortage. They will pay for blood without asking any questions. So, there are some unscrupulous people who kidnap drug addicts and hold them hostage, taking weekly pints of blood until the captives die. Scary stuff.

  6. Lucy says:

    This is fairly disgusting. But I do believe that markets should be used much more to eliminating rationing in health care.

  7. Kent Lyon says:

    Dear Dr. Goodman,

    Have you looked at the American system for organ procurement? It’s a system of coercion and financial incentives that enriches hospitals, transplant surgeons, other physicians, and is predominantly paid for by tax dollars. The incentives are to declare brain or other death based on somewhat loos criteria established by the feds. Hospitals are required to report potential donors within 24 hours of the patient meeting criteria for brain death. They stand to lose licensure if they don’t. They are paid out of Medicare for care of the patient while organ harvesting is pending from the moment they report the patient as a candidate for transplant. Attending physicians are cut out of the loop in talking with family members about organ donation. Efforts are made to get people to sign up as donors (drivers licenses, etc) so that consent doesn’t have to even be obtained from spouse or family in the event an individual becomes a candidate for organ donation. Most of the costs of transplant are bourne by Medicare, which has an incentive to obtain kidneys, in particular, as transplant is cheaper than chronic dialysis. The whole system is a push-pull sort of system of coercion, threats, and financial incentives (bribery) that makes the old Monty Python sketch on “Liver Organ Transplant” in their film, “The Meaning of Life” look almost tame (note the part where Eric Idle, in a pink tux, convinces the wife of the liver donor to be a donor herself by singing her “The Universe Song”. You might want to look at that, and the potential for abuse in the system, or the actual abuse of the system. In my experience, the trigger on declaring a patient a donor candidate is beyond traditional medical considerations of patient care. But doctors are unceremoniously told to butt out. I will never sign any organ donor card, and I encourage patients to follow suit if they ask. You don’t have to even be a dissident in teh US to get your organs seized. Just an ICU patient with tenuous ties to life. But then again, I’m an old fashioned doc. I dont’ like government declaring my patients dead and donors while disallowing me from discussing the situation with the patient or family. Am I off base here in this brave new green (as in soylent) world?

    Kent Lyon

  8. Candace says:

    Very fascinating. I had a whole lecture on organ sales in one of my classes this year. Since the sale of organs is illegal there is a price ceiling of zero, resulting in a massive shortage. One by one the professor dispelled common objections to a market for organs and how many lives it could save and money it could provide to those in need.