The design of the human body is truly one of the most wonderful creations ever made. Managed by a vast network of nervous system consisting of more than three trillion nerve cells, the human body is held up by 200-300 bones that make the skeletal frame. The construction is augmented by the presence of 639 muscles, 62,000 miles of blood vessels and approximately 7,500 named parts of the body. Out of the 7,500 body parts, nine in particular are organs that are essential to the functioning and continued survival of the body.
In recent decades, medical science has made tremendous technological leaps that make it possible to offer transplants to patients with defective organs. The defects are most often caused by diseases, accidents or genetic defects. Cases that previously signaled death sentences for patients can now be treated with transplants; even eyesight could be restored through cornea transplants.
However, since replacement organs are harvested from donor bodies, there is a continuous shortage of organs on offer, leading to long waiting periods for patients. In the United States alone, about 120,000 patients are on the waiting list. However, in 2012, there were only 14,013 organ donors and 28,052 subsequent transplant procedures. The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that in 2010, a total of 106,879 organs were transplanted to patients globally – fulfilling only about 10% of the requirement.
The problem is further exacerbated by the black market sales of organs, frequently harvested through shady methods, accounting for 10% of the world organ supply valued as high as $1.2 billion annually. A number of countries, meanwhile, allow the sale of organs between consenting individuals or from cadavers. This severe imbalance between supply and demand has inevitably driven the prices of organs soaring. Kidneys are the most sought after transplant organ and with that in mind people are most likely to pay tremendous prices for this organ. Let’s take a look at the ten most expensive organs ever sold on the black market.
10 Kidney, China: $87,000
Picture this vacation package: 20 days in the beautiful city of Guangzhou, in China, inclusive of a return ticket, meals, transport and accommodation, all for just $87,000. Too expensive? Did we forget to mention the kidney, surgery and hospitalization?
Apparently, 17 Japanese organ tourists found the price quite reasonable, and returned home with brand new kidneys as souvenirs. The revelation shocked the nation which was already struggling to cope with 1.5 million people on its patient list. So much so, the Chinese government enacted a new law that prohibits this from happening in the future
9 Kidney, South Africa: $100,000
The operation, which spanned across three continents, beginning in the barrios of Brazil. Suitable candidates were filtered from a willing pool of donors and one of their kidneys were subsequently extracted. The kidneys were then flown to South Africa, where a waiting medical team performed kidney transplants on American and Israeli organ tourists for about $100,000 each. Considering that the donors were only paid $800, the return of investment (ROI) here is simply off the charts.
8 Kidney, Israel, 2010: $100,000
They say greed knows no bounds, this rarely becomes more evident than in this case. Despite selling kidneys for up to $100,000 to desperate patients, the organ traffickers actually stiffed the donors. Even when they did make payment, the payout was reduced. This is probably the reason behind the eventual arrest of the syndicate members, comprising of six Israelis including one Army general. Donors, who usually originate from third world countries, were flown to South America or Europe for their surgical extractions.
7 Kidney, Serbia, 2012: $123,000
Europe’s sudden economic upheaval several years ago, a direct result of the 2007 American Great Recession, forced many within the continent to seek new sources of income. While the harvesting grounds of organ traffickers are usually limited to the poor in Brazil, China, India, and the Philippines, the heady prospect of earning several years wages in exchange for a kidney proved to be too tempting for some. The New York Times ran a story in 2012 detailing how jobless Serbians were literally selling their kidneys for $100,000.
6 Kidney, Kosovo, 2013: $135,000
A team of five Kosovars, including a doctor and his son, were sentenced to jail after being found guilty of organ-trafficking. The shocking thing, however, was in the way they treated the donors. In most instances, the traffickers renegaded on the deal and did not even give donors time to recover before leaving them out in public. A Turkish donor was left at the airport to board his flight home despite a visible and bloody wound on his side.
5 Kidney, Israel, 2007: $135,000
Two Israeli organ traffickers were found guilty by an Israeli court for soliciting and trafficking people to become organ donors. Most of the victims were not paid. What’s worse, however, was the focus of their strategy: the traffickers targeted mentally-challenged Arabs and single mothers in the country. The donors would be flown to the Ukraine for surgery before being sent home. A judge, two doctors and another two accomplices were also convicted. Court affidavit revealed that they were selling the kidneys for $135,000.
4 Kidney, New York: $160,000
"I am what you call a matchmaker", were the exact words spoken by Brooklynite Levy Izhak Rosenbaum to an undercover FBI agent as the two were negotiating a kidney for the latter’s imaginary uncle. He would later quote $160,000 as the price for the kidney. Rosenbaum was subsequently charged by the state in October 2011. Nine months later, Rosenbaum was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail, and in the process, became the first black-market organ trafficker ever convicted in the United States.
3 Kidney, Ukraine, 2010: $200,000
Three doctors, who were the ringleaders of an international organ trafficking operation, were arrested after three dozen of their donors returned home from surgery in former Soviet bloc countries seeking state medical assistance and disability payments. The majority of their clients consisted of former Ukrainians who emigrated overseas, who each paid up to $200,000 for their kidneys. Proceeds from the sales were used to finance their lavish lifestyles and property investments, which amounted to over $1 million.
2 Kidney, Moldova, 2003: $250,000
In a report presented at the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, the head of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, disclosed that poverty-stricken Moldovans were regularly selling their kidneys for $3,000 or less, while the end buyers were charged up to $250,000 for each kidney.
The almost quarter million dollar profit margin was shared between the doctors and the organ traffickers. She also added that most of the surgical extractions were performed in hospitals in Turkey during night hours. Donors were normally released after five days, but in the absence of proper follow up treatments, their condition usually deteriorated.
1 Kidney, Singapore, 2008: $300,000
Tang Wee Sung, the owner of Singapore’s most prestigious retail store, C.K. Tang, tried to bypass the regular five to seventeen years waiting time for a replacement kidney by buying one from an Indonesian donor for $300,000. In an effort to bypass the state’s strict organ trading laws, he falsely declared that the donor was related to him. Unfortunately for him, their arrangement became public and he was soon brought to court. Tang, who by then was already on dialysis, was fined $12,000 by the court and sentenced to one day in jail.
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