A Michigan State University anthropologist from Bangladesh has published the first in-depth study describing the often horrific experiences of poor people who were victims of organ trafficking.
A Michigan State University anthropologist from Bangladesh has published the first in-depth study describing the often horrific experiences of poor people who were victims of organ trafficking. Monir Moniruzzaman interviewed 33 kidney sellers in Bangladesh and found they typically didn’t get the money they were promised and were plagued with serious health problems that prevented them from working, shame and depression.
The study, which appears in Medical Anthropology Quarterly. Moniruzzaman said the people selling their organs are exploited by unethical brokers and recipients who are often Bangladeshi-born foreign nationals living in places such as the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Because organ-selling is illegal, the brokers forge documents indicating the recipient and seller are related and claim the act is a family donation.
Doctors, hospital officials and drug companies turn a blind eye to the illicit act because they profit along with the broker and, of course, the recipient.
Moniruzzaman recently delivered his research findings and recommendations on human organ trafficking to both the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Organ brokers typically snag the unwitting sellers through deceptive advertisements. One ad, in a Bangladeshi newspaper, falsely promised to reward a kidney seller with a visa to the United States. Moniruzzaman collected more than 1,200 similar newspaper ads for the study.
The organ trade is thriving in Bangladesh, a country where 78 percent of residents live on less than US$2 a day. The average quoted price of a kidney is 100,000 taka ($1,400) — a figure that has gradually dropped due to an abundant supply from the poor majority.
One Bangladeshi woman advertised to sell a cornea so she could feed her family, saying she needed only one eye to see. That transplant didn’t happen, but Moniruzzaman said there have been cases of corneas being sold.
Moniruzzaman said it’s important to note that most sellers do not make “autonomous choices” to sell their organs, but instead are manipulated and coerced. To combat organ trafficking, he recommends, more vigilance on the part of governments, more vigilance by doctors in checking the relationship between recipient and donor, and the establishment of systems for enabling cadaveric donation in developing countries.
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