Group works for end to desperate practice of organ selling
November 14, 1999
From Correspondent Rusty Dornin
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- In some of the most destitute places, there are people who bear scars of desperation --jagged lines revealing where organs have been removed, sold for much needed cash.
"It turns out that most people who sell a kidney are pressured to do so by money lenders and are soon back in debt because they don't have any banks to put the money in and most of the money goes to money lenders," said Lawrence Cohen of Organ Watch, which has begun tracking the international organ market to monitor human rights abuses.
"Our goal was to examine what was going on," said Nancy Scheper-Hughes, also with the group. "What were the hot spots? Where was the kidney a prime commodity? Who were the sellers, and what kind of desperation were they facing?"
Organs often are donated voluntarily, but sometimes body parts are taken without consent from people in hospitals and even mortuaries, according to researchers.
"What is being taken are eyes, whole eyes -- not just the cornea -- bone, skin and, in some cases, pituitary glands and heart valves, Scheper-Hughes said. "And frequently they are being sold across countries."
Organ Watch representatives say that real abuses must be separated from false rumors of organ theft, which can create a panic.
In one instance, in Brazil in the 1980s, Scheper-Hughes said Brazilians afraid to go to the hospital to have broken bones mended for fear that their organs would be taken.
Organ Watch plans to monitor the risks for both sellers and buyers. Sometimes an organ buyer cannot afford to purchase anti-rejection drugs and dies as a result.
The group also wants to promote economic reforms to remove the financial pressures that can push the destitute to sell their organs.
"There need to be forms of credit in these slums which aren't as destructive to families and don't put people at high risk," Cohen said.
HHS to publish 'fairer' rules for organ transplants
World Medical Association Statement on Live Organ Trade
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