February 29, 2024

Iran’s legal market in kidneys creates a black market, too

The desperate and indebted are ready to sell their organs

ads posted in Teheran offering to sell kidneys  

Iran is the only country in the world where people can sell their kidneys legally. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, recipients pay US$4,600 to the government transplant, and the donor (or seller) receives this when the operation is over.

“Yes, people donate because they need money, but this is a reality all over the world,” said Nasser Simforoosh, a Tehran transplant surgeon. “Instead of doing something illegal to cover their debts, like stealing or smuggling, they are saving a life first. This is not exploitation. The end result is good for the recipient and the donor.”

Unfortunately, in the shadow of the legal system a booming black market in organs has sprung up in which donors can sell their kidneys at a premium. Despite government crackdowns on illegal transplant operations, foreigners, ex-pats, or patients who do not want to wait in a queue are willing to pay higher rates. Near hospitals in Teheran are posters advertising the kidneys of the desperate and indebted. “If I could sell my kidney, I could get out of debt,” Ali Rezaei, a bankrupt 42-year-old told the LA Times. “I would sell my liver too.”

“The price is going to go higher and higher,” said Behrooz Broumand, of the Iranian Society of Organ Transplantation. “Transplant commercialism is a race. As long as there is poverty, they cannot stop it.”

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