Forced Migration and Organ Trafficking
Organ trafficking is the theft, via violence or coercion, of human organs in order to sell them or use them for transplant on the black market. The selling of organs in any way is illegal in every country but Iran, where the process is closely monitored.
Urban myths abound about some man in Texas or New Jersey waking up drugged in a bathtub with a kidney removed, but it doesn’t usually look anything like that.
In many cases organ trafficking is connected to forced migration. Victims of war and natural disaster are vulnerable and extremely impoverished. An organ can sell for thousands of dollars, providing short-term relief for the victim’s family if they are paid properly and survive the surgery. So as terrible as the term “organ trafficking” sounds, it is often done voluntarily, despite the risks, or perhaps in ignorance of them.
Organ trafficking also involves kidnapping on a wide scale. Unlike some other forms of forced migration, often children and adults kidnapped for their organs do survive to see their families and homes again. But many do not, and are dumped in a trashcan with multiple vital organs removed. Those that do survive suffer from extreme post-surgical pain and scarring.
Detainment and wrongful imprisonment provide governments a way to harvest organs for the black market. China has been accused of arresting and detaining dissidents in order to execute them and harvest their organs.
Preventing some of the most violent forms of organ trafficking is difficult for many complex reasons:
- It occurs around the world for different purposes. Some cultures want the organs for transplant, while others want them for religious rites.
- Individuals and families do often sell their organs voluntarily, whether ignorant of the danger or not. Many children in Africa have recently been found to be missing organs, likely because their parents sold them.
- The price of organs on the black market is simply too high for most people in extremely poor cultures to resist.
But around the world two forces could fight this crime: the rule of law and education.
Organ trafficking is illegal in almost every country in the world. But when a child is found dead hours away from home, missing her vital organs, and nothing serious is done to investigate and prosecute the kidnapping, organ-trafficking murderer responsible, the crimes will only continue. And as prices increase for certain organs in places like the United States and Europe, we can assume the problem will in fact only get worse.
Education is also crucial in helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people understand the laws surrounding organ trafficking and the risks involved in offering one’s own organs for sale – risks such as inadequate and extremely painful medical treatment, being scammed out of the money owed, and death.
Some people argue that making organ trafficking legal will also help protect the poor from its dangers. Iran has seen some success with this.
But it is likely that until more is done to educate the world’s poorest and most devastated regions, it will still be easy to take advantage of marginalized people for cheap and, through violence, free, organs.
Learn more about some of organ trafficking’s causes and demands in relation to health and Western medicine.
We’ll be talking more about the sale of organs and how it relates to human trafficking – if you have any questions about it, leave them in the comments!