Thursday, June 14, 2007

Selling yourself ... or parts of yourself ... to escape poverty

Except, it doesn't really work. A horrific story from Der Spiegel International
The note is attached to a tree trunk across from the Central Hospital in Chennai (formerly Madras), a major city in southern India. Written in scrawly handwriting, the note advertizes its author's "top notch kidney" for 30,000 rupees, the equivalent of €500 ($664). Asked about his offer, the vendor -- a 30-year-old Tamil -- says "no middleman" is involved in the deal. He adds that he urgently needs the money to "pay back debts."

This offer is no isolated case in Chennai. On the contrary: The metropolis of around 7 million people has the questionable reputation of being the main trafficking hub for the organ trade in India. And the items for sale are mainly kidneys. After all, every human being has two of those and can get by with just one if needs be.

Sometimes the trade takes on a bizarre character. Villivakkam, a slum in the north of Chennai, is known as "Kidneyvakkam" or "Kidneytown" among the locals. Surveys conducted for the health ministry show almost every family includes someone who has sold their kidney. The situation is similar in the neighboring refugee camp of Tsunami Nagar, which was set up for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Here, the kidneys of patients in good health can be bought "for between 20,000 and 40,000 rupees," one former middleman reveals.

"The kidney donors are often poor young women," reports George Kurian from the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore. "The buyers, on the other hand, are usually older and well-off men." According to press reports, about 100,000 Indians require a kidney transplant every year. In addition, some two million suffer from serious kidney problems. The demand is huge -- and the kidneys tend to go to those with the most money.

No comments: