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Organ Transplantation

The only gift is a portion of thyself - Ralph Waldo Emerson


The buying and selling of blood is still around, but it has been pushed into the background by the phenomenal emergence of organ transplants and the demand for living human organs, especially kidneys.

Even though the sale or profiting from the purchase of human organs has been outlawed in every country in the world (except Iran), a planet-wide black market has arisen as a consequence.

There are reports of donors having been recruited from the Brazilian slums and flown to South Africa where their kidneys were surgically removed. They were paid six to ten thousand dollars and flown back home with one remaining kidney. The South African middlemen were then able to flog the "donated" organ for about one hundred thousand. Not too shabby a margin of profit.

Some organ donors may not even be that lucky. There are documented cases of wealthy people on dialysis who "short-cut" the wait by travelling to China to receive the kidneys of executed prisoners. There are even stories of women in India who are forced by their husbands to sell their organs to western buyers in order to provide dowries for their daughters.

As the shortage of transplants continues and the demand increases, it can only get worse. Is there a way out of this conundrum? There is talk now of legalizing the trade in human organs in order to choke out the booming black market. If this somehow happens, one can only imagine what the future will look like.

In the United States, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) provides a toll-free patient services lines to help transplant candidates, recipients, and family members understand organ allocation practices and transplantation data. You may also call this number to discuss problems you may be experiencing with your transplant center or the transplantation system in general.

More people are waiting than receiving. If organ donation is something you would be interested in, check out organdonor.gov or designate your decision in a living will or on your driver's license. The death of a loved one is a traumatic and devastating event - but the donation of vital organs is a gift for which there are no words or thanks.


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