Bioethics News

Turning to the Kidney Black Market as a Last Resort

By: Ashwini Nagappan

Many living-donor organ transplants involve kidneys because humans can survive with just one. Currently, many people around the world eagerly wait for a viable kidney. Unfortunately for some, the passive wait ends in death rather than a new organ. For those whose names are too far down on the organ transplant list, an alternative presents itself: the black market. With this in mind, we consider the consequences of Britons traveling to countries such as Pakistan for illegal black market kidney transplants.

A primary consideration of the illegal organ exchange is money. Several difficult questions arise in the kidney market when establishing a price for a kidney: What is a reasonable price for a kidney? Are some kidneys worth more than others? Who determines the price of a kidney? Presently, patients pay between $50,000 – $60,000 in the black market in Pakistan. Further, those who give up their organs only receive a small fraction of that in compensation. The roles in the kidney market are fixed: the Britons pay an enormous sum of money, the locals sell for cheap, and the middlemen acquire most of the money.

Additionally, those who give up their kidneys are most likely forced into doing so because they are victims of human trafficking, or they are coerced due of poverty. Further, there are reports of people using platforms such as Facebook to obtain a kidney. Records show that approximately one hundred illegal transplants occur in Pakistan per month. However, buying and/or selling a kidney in Pakistan is illegal and has designated repercussions.

There are concerns for the safety of the donor and recipient because illegal transplants are not regulated.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.