Organs for sale on Craigslist, blogger says

by Anne Zieger on September 14, 2010

Kidney x-rayFew patients are under more pressure than those waiting to hear that a compatible donor has been found to give  them the organ they need.  Unfortunately, as frightened as they must be, they have to wait until that magic phone call arrives.

Or do they?

According to blogger Kevin Pho, patients are increasingly sidestepping traditional organ donor waiting lists by finding willing organ suppliers on classifieds site Craigslist.  No doubt, such organ sales/buys are turning up on eBay and other large auction sites as well. (I’m guessing there’s a well-established set of jargon which doesn’t name the transaction but lets people know who’s buying and selling.)

It’s hardly surprising that patients and families are trying this route. After all, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 4,505 people died while waiting on traditional lists.

The question, Pho says, is whether  hospitals should be a part of this game. According to his research, only 10 percent of centers will transplant an organ  from a  (presumably) altruistic donor who just wants to help. What’s more, only 20 to 30 percent of transplant centers will perform a kidney swap between two families at the hospital  who find a blood type match.

Things get even thornier when you take scammers into account. How is a hospital to tell the difference between a no-money-changing hands transplant and those who, as Pho notes, make no bones about their illegal intent:

“For instance, one offer included “an all-expenses paid relocation to the U.S.,” and other required the family to buy $250,000 worth of paintings in exchange for their kidneys.”

As long as people’s lives are at stake, illegal organ sales are likely to continue. The question if how soon regulators will find and punish organ buyers/vendors, and whether they’ll be equally tough on the rich buyers as the poor organ sellers.

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