By JENNIFER CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Organ trafficking is an illegal but thriving trade in the world, according to Monir Moniruzzaman, a Michigan State University anthropologist.
He retells the story he heard from Dildar, a 32-year-old Bangladeshi who sold one of his kidneys. “When a fox catches a chicken, the little one cries. I was the chicken and the buyer was the fox. On the day of the operation, I felt like a sacrificial cow purchased for slaughtering,”
For a year-long research project, Moniruzzaman hired an organ broker as an informant and an organ seller as a research assistant. They helped him interview 33 kidney sellers in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, in 2005.
“Their activities frequently go unrecorded and remain concealed due to illegality,” he said.
Poverty forced those people sell their body parts, he said.
He said buyers promised that operations are 100 percent safe and would be performed by world-renowned specialists.
The sellers also were promised receive “huge money,” about $1,300 for one kidney. In fact, they received only at most $300.
“Organ selling is illegal in every country in the world,” Moniruzzaman said.
In his research, he found two Americans involved in the organ trade, both as recipients. One woman, around 50, from Washington, D.C., went to Bangladesh with a broker and found a young man, about 23, willing to sell his kidney. They flew to south India for the surgery.
The other recipient was a Bangladesh-born American from New York.
Federal law allows the government to reimburse living donors for expenses and offers grants to increase donations and improve organ preservation and compatibility. However, it is still illegal to sell or pay for organs.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State, organ donor registrations were 89 percent higher in February 2012 than in the same month last year.
However, there is still a large shortage of organ donors.
Currently 113,828 people await an organ transplant in the United States, including 2,977 in Michigan, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit organization in Richmond, Va., that manages the U.S. organ allocation system.
Joel Newman, the network assistant director of communications, said, “There is a great shortage of donated organs. The registries are very important in promoting advance consent for organ donation.”
But it may be many years between a donation decision and when that person dies under conditions that would allow donation, Newman said.
He said many people die under circumstances that prevent organ donation, although donation of tissue such as corneas, skin and bone could still be possible.
According to the World Health Organization, the shortage is virtually a universal problem that led to development of the international organ trade.
Also, Moniruzzaman said, “International solutions and penalties should be set up not only for brokers, recipients but also doctor who did such operations.”