Black Market Kidneys

kidney sale ethicsI just recently got wind of this story, which appeared last week in Yahoo News:
“Egypt’s illegal organs trade thrives on poverty” [Broken link repaired Nov. 24, ’08]]

On the back of dire poverty, legal shortcomings and religious conservatism, a new mafia is prospering in Egypt and turning the country into the regional hub for the human organs trade, experts say.

There are no official statistics but in a country where social inequality is high and a quarter of the population is believed to live under the poverty line, more and more destitute Egyptians are falling prey to the phenomenon.

The large scars slicing the sides of many Egyptians in impoverished Cairo neighborhoods most probably testify to an illegal kidney sale to a rich fellow countryman or a Gulf Arab who could not find a donor.

Such sales are legally dubious, but the “donors” are at least nominally willing. This, apparently, is not always the case:

While most donors are poor and hoping for a better life, not all are volunteers, with grisly accounts of forced organ ‘donations’ earning Egypt the sinister reputation of ‘Brazil of the Middle East.’

Like millions of Egyptians, Abdelhamid AbdelHamid, Ahmed Ibrahim and Ashraf Zakaria were seeking better paid jobs in the Gulf but their quest cost them a kidney.

In a recent interview to the independent Al-Masri Al-Yom daily, they explained how they had been promised jobs but were requested to undergo a medical examination beforehand.

The doctor “discovered” they were all suffering from a kidney infection requiring immediate surgery. They woke up later in hospital with a missing kidney. The go-between had vanished but they feared to speak out.

Interestingly, the story begins by talking about voluntary sale of organs, then switches to talking about the market in organs stolen from unwilling ‘donors,’ end then ends by squishing the two into one category, citing an Egyptian religious group’s argument that “Legislation is the only way to stem organs trafficking.”

As it happens, I’m currently reading James Stacey Taylor’s recent book, Stakes And Kidneys: Why Markets In Human Body Parts Are Morally Imperative. It’s a challenging book, with a conclusion that few will find attractive. But, as always, the challenge for those who find the conclusion distasteful is to do the hard work of pointing out to Taylor just where they think his reasoning goes wrong.

5 comments so far

  1. Cheekywango on

    How did the three men realize they were missing kidneys?

  2. Chris MacDonald on

    I don’t know, I didn’t interview them…I’m just passing the story along. Presumably it started with seeing a surgical wound over where the kidney should be, and then having a physician verify that a kidney was in fact missing.

  3. Zazacool on

    I agree with cheekywango.I dont think these poor guys would spend money to see a physician. Was the surgery free? If it were, shouldnt they be happy they got a free surgery? I think this story is made up.

  4. Chris MacDonald on

    Highly unlikely that it’s made up. Reported by a reputable news-source… reporters don’t just report rumours. They would have checked. There’s no good reason to doubt this story.Besides, that’s not important to the point being made in my blog entry.

  5. Chris MacDonald on

    FYI, I’ve had at least 2 people try to post comments here, offering kidneys for sale.Sorry, but no way. That’s illegal in most places, and without proper safeguards, it’s unethical. I won’t permit it here!Chris.


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