Proposal 3: The Organ Black Market

kidney_donorsMy third and final proposal is about the organ black market that currently exists in lieu of a legal transaction-based organ market. This, I believe, is what fuels the need for a legal organ market in the United States. My research is from several news publications from around the world that document this shocking practice. According to World Health Organization experts in Switzerland, an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving the purchase of human organs occur annually. Of this, 75% of the underground transactions involve kidneys, due to the rising rate of obesity-related problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems. Dr. Luc Noel, a WHO official, monitors trends of human organ donations and underground actions. He asserts that recent signs point to an increasing trend in “transplant tourism,” in which recipients seek out people willing to sell their organs from all over the world. The profits from these transactions are substantial enough for a market to form (UPI News Track 2012). Patients pay up to $200,000 for a kidney to gangs who “harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000” (Campbell 2012). These traffickers are taking advantage of the rising international demand for kidneys and making enormous profits. Many patients head for China, India or Pakistan for surgery. One organ broker in China advertised his services with a slogan that read “Donate a kidney, buy the new iPad!” Dr. Noel comments that “the stakes are so big, the profit that can be made so huge, that the temptation is out there” (Campbell 2012).

The lack of laws and law enforcement in some countries allows this black market to go unnoticed. Dr. Noel believes that every 1 in 10 organ transplants are secured in the black market, which means that organ “gangs” profited almost 11,000 times in 2010 (Campbell 2012).

Most people had never heard of an organ black market until a Brooklyn, NY resident was charged with trafficking kidneys in 2009. Levy Itzhak Rosenbaum was the first person convicted in the United States for brokering illegal kidney transplants for profit and was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Kidney recipients paid Rosenbaum up to $150,000 to find them a kidney. Beckie Cohen, who conducted business with Rosenbaum, called Rosenbaum a “hero” for providing her father with a lifeline (Grant 2012).

Those opposed to paying people for their organs assert that the most vulnerable people would be poor people. Not only would recipients not be able to pay for organs, but those that sell their organs would face risky surgeries for a small compensation.


“Organ black market booming.” UPI NewsTrack 28 May 2012. Global Issues In Context. Web. 3 Dec. 2012.

Grant, Jason. “Brooklyn man sentenced to 2 ½ years for role in black-market kidney trafficking scheme”. The Star-Ledger. 11 Jul 2012.

Campbell, Denis. “Illegal kidney trade booms as new organ is ‘sold every hour’”. The Guardian. 27 May 2012.


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