On the black market there are the most interesting things to buy. From concert tickets to contract killers, there’s everything that you can imagine. But we were especially interested in how much a human body is worth on the black market, so we took a closer look and researched what your body is actually worth there. So, anyone who has always wanted to know how much he would get for his organs, from brain to kidney, should definitely read this.
What is organ trafficking?
There are a lot of definitions for organ trafficking or also called organ trading but one of the most common definition is from the World Health Organization. Based on their definition organ trade is a commercial transplantation where there is a profit, or also transplantations that occur outside of the national medical systems.
Especially illegal organ trade is defined as a situation that occurs when organs are removed from the body for the purpose of commercial transactions which is not the case when transplanting a body part via the national medical system.
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The amount of illegal organ trafficking is not clear as there are no official statistics about it however studies estimating that anywhere from 5% to 42% of transplanted organs are illicitly purchased. There are also no official numbers on black market turnover for illegal transplanted organs, but different studies come to an estimation of profits between $600 million and $1.2 billion per year.
How Much Are Your Body Parts Worth?
Basically, human life is priceless, but there are places in this world where you can give life a price tag. Depending on your body part or organ, the average price you get for your innards on the black market is about the following. When it comes to prices, it’s obviously better to think twice about whether you want to sell something of your body as you would not really earn that much.
|Organ / Body Part||Price|
|Both Eyes||1.500 $|
|Skull without teeth||1.200 $|
|Coronary arteries||1.500 $|
|Hand and forearm||385 $|
|One liter of blood||300 $|
Why is there a black market for organs and body parts?
The answer to this question is actually quite simple. If the demand is big enough, then there is someone who will try to satisfy that demand. And so it is on the black market for organs. In the USA alone, there are over 113,000 people a year waiting for an organ transplant. In contrast, only 18,000 organs were donated in 2012.
According to the National Kidney Foundation the average wait time in the U.S. for a kidney is 3.6 years. In contrast in Canada, it is estimated that the average wait time for a kidney is between 4 to 5 years with some people even waiting as long as 7 years. In the U.K. the wait times is the shortest compared to the USA and Canada with on average 2 to 3 years.
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Desperately hoping for organs to be transplanted, people are willing to spend big money on the black market to get a life-saving organ. Especially as on average, 18 people die every day while waiting for their transplant you might understand the reason for reaching out to the black market.
The most prominent organ that is traded illicitly is the human kidney, with estimation of the World Health Organization saying that 10,000 kidneys are traded on the black market worldwide annually which equals more than one every hour.
Why do people sell their organs?
Not everyone sells his organs voluntarily. In the last 25 years, just in the US more than 1,700 cases have been reported in which people have been attacked and one of their body parts was stolen. But the organ harvesting doesn’t always take place the way you might imagine it from Hollywood movies.
Instead, dead people are robbed more often than living people. For doing this criminals work closely together with morticians and pay them a share, in order to remove the body parts from corpses. Of course, the families of the deceased are not told anything about it and since they almost never want to see the body again, the whole process is only rarely noticed.
When did organ trafficking start?
A precise starting date cannot be determined however it is assumed that organ trafficking and organ harvesting started in the 1980s in India. Low costs and a high availability brought in worldwide demand, and transformed India into the world largest kidney transplant centers.
Especially in modern days kidnapping people, murdering them and harvesting their organs becomes a worldwide phenomenon and is not just limited anymore to developing countries whose hospitals are advanced enough to offer transplant services. Also, in developed countries like the USA and United Kingdom cases of organ trafficking became popular.
Where does organ trafficking happen nowadays?
Unfortunately, the reality is that organ trafficking is without exception happening all around the globe. However, there are countries where organ trading and also organ harvesting is more common than in other countries. Especially in Indonesia, China, India, South Africa, Angola, Ecuador, Georgia, Libya, Russia and Brazil more documented cases have shown up than anywhere else.
Why is organ selling illegal?
There is still an ongoing ethical debate on organ trade and whether or not people have an inherent right to sell their own organs. Most democratic countries have an implied ethical right that everybody can decide what happens to his body however the potential harm of organ trade outweighs the rights of an individual which is the reason that organ trafficking is not allowed in most countries.
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One of the main argument made in favor of legalized organ trading is that it would increase the number of organs available for transplantation but it is questionable if legalizing payments for selling your organs would encourage more people to donate their organs or would just put poor people into financial exploitation which cannot be undone. Such a decision to sell cannot be regarded as truly voluntary and it is therefore assumed that the government has to protect poor people by prohibiting the sale of organs.
Are there countries where it is legal to sell organs?
Currently Iran is the only nation worldwide that allows organs to be bought and sold for money however this is only limited to buying and selling kidneys with prices ranging from $2,000 to $4,000. Reason for that is that due to a missing infrastructure to maintain an efficient organ transplant system during the early 80’s, Iran legalized living non-related donation of kidneys in 1988.
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Very important point however is that in an attempt to limit transplant tourism the market for buying and selling a kidney is contained only within the country which means that foreigners are not allowed to buy the organs of Iranian citizens. It is even required that organ transplantation can only happen between people of the same nationality meaning an Iranian is not allowed to purchase a kidney from a refugee from another country.
Proponents of legalized organ trade are hailing the Iranian system as an example of an effective and safe organ trading model but there is no evidence that this model will spread to other countries in the near future. Especially the fact that over 70% of donors are poor and that there is no short-term or long-term medical follow-up of organ donors is a common point of criticism of that system.