Iraq also has a problem with illegal surgery. The issue there is a black market in kidney transplants. Kidney disease is widespread and more than 5,000 Iraqis urgently need transplants. The problerm is acute enough for the Ministry of the Interior to have formed a special section to track down organ gangs. Its head told the UN news agency IRIN that three negotiators and a donor had recently been arrested. The donor had been forced to donate his kidney to pay back money to the gang.
Tapping into the black market is easy, according to IRIN. At the main gate of Bagdad’s Karama hospital, a street vendor promises to organise a transplant. “I can get you a healthy kidney,” he says. It will cost you US$2,000 to $3,000. You just have to give me your blood type and I will get if for you even before you have finished a cold Pepsi.”
Doctors are not necessarily part of the trade, but tend not to ask many questions. “At the end of the day, it is saving a life,” says Dr Karima Abbas, a surgeon at Al-Khayal Hospital. “We don’t believe in the buying and selling of kidneys, but these are very difficult times in Iraq.”
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