A kidney fetches $2700 in Turkey. According to last month's issue of Journal of American Medical Association, this is a high price. An Indian or Iraqi kidney enriches its former owner by a mere $1000. Wealthy clients later pay for rare organ up to $150,000.
CBS News aired, two years ago, a documentary, filmed by Antenna 3 of Spain, in which undercover reporters in Mexico were asked, by a priest acting as a middleman for a doctor, to pay close to 1 million dollars for a single kidney. An auction of a human kidney on eBay in February 2000 drew a bid of $100,000 before company put a stop to it. Another auction in September 1999 drew $5.7 million - though, probably, merely as a prank.
Organ harvesting operations flourish in Turkey, in central Europe, mainly in Czech Republic, and in Caucasus, mainly in Georgia. They operate on Turkish, Moldovan, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Romanian, Bosnian, Kosovar, Macedonian, Albanian and assorted east European donors.
They remove kidneys, lungs, pieces of liver, even corneas, bones, tendons, heart valves, skin and other sellable human bits. The organs are kept in cold storage and air lifted to illegal distribution centers in United States, Germany, Scandinavia, United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, and other rich, industrialized locales. It gives "brain drain" a new, spine chilling, meaning.
Organ trafficking has become an international trade. It involves Indian, Thai, Philippine, Brazilian, Turkish and Israeli doctors who scour Balkan and other destitute regions for tissues. The Washington Post reported last week that in a single village in Moldova, 14 out of 40 men were reduced by penury to selling body parts.
Last year, Moldova cut off thriving baby adoption trade due to an - an unfounded - fear toddlers were being dissected for spare organs. According to Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, Romanians are investigating similar allegations in Israel and have withheld permission to adopt Romanian babies from dozens of eager and out of pocket couples. American authorities are scrutinizing a two year old Moldovan harvesting operation based in United States.
Organ theft and trading in Ukraine is a smooth operation. According to news agencies, last August three Ukrainian doctors were charged in Lvov with trafficking in organs of victims of road accidents. The doctors used helicopters to ferry kidneys and livers to colluding hospitals. They charged up to $19,000 per organ.
The West Australian daily surveyed in January thriving organs business in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sellers are offering their wares openly, through newspaper ads. Prices reach up to $68,000. Compared to an average monthly wage of less than $200, this is an unimaginable fortune.
National health insurance schemes turn a blind eye. Israel's participates in costs of purchasing organs abroad, though only subject to rigorous vetting of sources of donation. Still, a May 2001 article in a New York Times Magazine, quotes "the coordinator of kidney transplantation at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem (as saying that) 60 of 244 patients currently receiving post-transplant care purchased their new kidney from a stranger - just short of 25 percent of patients at one of Israel's largest medical centers participating in organ business".
Many Israelis - attempting to avoid scrutiny - travel to east Europe, accompanied by Israeli doctors, to perform transplantation surgery. These junkets are euphemistically known as "transplant tourism". Clinics have sprouted all over benighted region. Israeli doctors have recently visited impoverished Macedonia, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Yugoslavia to discuss with local businessmen and doctors setting up of kidney transplant clinics.
Such open involvement in what can be charitably described as a latter day slave trade gives rise to a new wave of thinly disguised anti-Semitism. The Ukrainian Echo, quoting Ukrinform news agency, reported, on January 7, that, implausibly, a Ukrainian guest worker died in Tel-Aviv in mysterious circumstances and his heart was removed. The Interpol, according to paper, is investigating this lurid affair.