Recently I came across a news story that enlightened me to a grim reality facing not just under developed countries but every country. On February 14th 2013 an article, along with video analysis, was published detailing a scandal pertaining to a French charity organization by the name of L’Arche de Zoé or Zoe’s Ark (This organization was known for aiding Asian children during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster). In April 2007, Zoe’s Ark announced a campaign to evacuate 10,000 orphans from Darfur alongside other French charities including Sauver le Darfour (Save Darfur). Instead the organization was accused by Chad President Idriss Déby of abducting 103 Chadian children from their homes on October 2007, and he speculated they planned to sell the children to pedophiles or kill them and sell their organs for transplants (Bennhold). When I initially read President Deby allegations I believed it to be a crazy statement, and the thought of someone killing people for their organs sounds like a premise for a Rob Zombie movie. Nonetheless two people were arrested Eric Breteau, who founded the French charity Zoe’s Ark, and his colleague Emilie Lelouch for abduction (Al Jazeera). With this story leaving a stain on my mind I googled more stories of organ trafficking. What I found was a staggering number of cases where people have been a victim or obliged to these disturbing practices.
As of April 28, 2013 there are 117,892 people on the national waiting list in need of an organ transplant in America alone and only 2,313 of those people have received an organ this year thus far. A Global trend has birthed due to the perpetuated poverty of lower living citizens and the ready rich who plan to exploit it called Organ Trafficking. An article published September 2009 states 10 horrific facts about organ trafficking around the globe (Current). For example the trade in organ harvesting from “commercial living donors” a politically correct pseudonym, is thriving in Egypt, due to the lack of legislation there (My Daily Clarity). One method in Egypt revolved around a hiring scheme. Young men were hired for a job and sent to a physician for an exam to ensure their good health. The young men would awaken in a hospital in pain and missing a kidney. Victims of this scheme have faced threats of violence when they have filed charges against those who committed the crime (Current).
Another country documented of organ malpractice was China, being a mecca of organ transplantation promising organs no later than 2 weeks, even having a replacement if the first operation is not successful. The regime claims that its source of organs comes from executed prisoners and labor camp systems. Laws introduced in 2006 make it an offence to remove organs from people against their will, and banned those under 18 from selling their organs. Unfortunately and intentionally this law does not protect prisoners. In 2009 China allegedly provided 10,000 successful surgeries having 65% of the donors being executed prisoners (Malone). In China quite frequently the punishment does not fit the crime, meaning if a millionaire is in need of a healthy heart he will get one, even if the one he buys is being used.
Across the Pacific Ocean in New Jersey, America reports its first organ trafficking scheme. A rabbi, a kidney, and a FBI agent sounds like a beginning of a joke but contrary it’s a sting operation gone right. July 2009 undercover agents crack down on a black market trafficker who just so happens to be a rabbi. Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a self-proclaimed “matchmaker”, was arrested for buying organs from the poor people of Israel for $10,000 and selling them to patients for as much as $160,000. Along with Rosenbaum 44 other people were arrested in bus loads charged for conspiring to arrange the sale of Israeli organs. Among those people were other rabbis, mayors, and lawmakers. Under 1984 federal law, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly buy or sell organs for transplant. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of an upcoming book on organ trafficking, said that she has been tracking the Brooklyn-connected ring for 10 years and that her contacts in Israel have called Rosenbaum “the top man” in the United States of trafficking (The Associated Press).
Although transplantation is the main source of obtaining healthy organs a new technological breakthrough is taking place that may eradicate organ trafficking and donating all together. Regenerative medicine or Stem cell research is the process of replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function (aabb). Scientist have found a way to create organs seemingly from scratch using stem cells without harming any living person in the process. April 9th, 2013 a 2 year old girl was giving a second chance at life thanks to doctors who used the child’s own stem cells to grow a new windpipe. Hannah had breathing difficulties at birth and Korean doctors soon discovered the missing windpipe. The stem cells were extracted from the young child’s hip bone marrow. She is the youngest patient in the world to receive a bio-engineered organ (Helen Pow).
Another development happening in the world of medicine that will one day end organ harvesting is the study of Bioprinting. Imagine waking up one morning like you always do, going for a jog like you always do, and expecting to be able to run 2 miles, like you always do. But this day is different, it’s a hot day, and as you’re running your heart begins to beat at an abnormal pace, then it happens you experience your first heart attack and faint. You go to the hospital and the doctor tells you, “You’ve been living with an enlarged heart if you give us a sample of your heart’s tissue we can print out a new one for you.” April 18th, 2013 scientist attending North Carolinas own Wake Forest School of Medicine are creating livers using specialized ink-jet printers. Using 3-D bio-printers scientist are generating life size models of kidneys, livers, hearts in hopes of one day this method will replace transplantation (Wake Health). Remember the film The Fifth Element? Theirs a scene in the beginning were scientist are reconstructing the fifth element using stem cells from its blown off limb, this is essentially what regenerative medicine is doing when creating an imitative organ.
Although science is making great steps towards the eradication of organ trafficking the morality of people needs to change as well. The World Health Organization has revealed that more than one human organ is illegally purchased every hour worldwide (Kyrsty Hazell). This market has capitalized on the poor’s hopelessness and the sick’s desperation. If more awareness comes about from news reports it will help to expose countries of this malpractice and stricter laws will come about and harsher judgments will be formed.
“10 Truly Shocking Facts About Organ Trafficking.” current. 1 Sep. 2009. 5 May. 2013.
“Engineering a Kidney.” wakehealth. 18 Apr. 2013. 5 May. 2013.
“France scrambles to rein in Chad ‘adoption’ scandal.” mg.co.za. 29 Oct. 2007. 5 May. 2013.
“Organ harvesting a growing trend.” mydailyclarity. 5 May. 2013.
“What is Bioprinting.” teal.u-bordeaux2.fr. 25 Apr. 2012. 5 May. 2013.
“Why Are People Against Stem Cell Research.” steminventory. 3 May. 2012. 5 May. 2013.
“Zoe’s Ark: Charity or child trafficking.” aljazeera. 14 Feb. 2013. 5 May. 2013.
Bennhold, Katrin . “French Charity in Dispute Over African Children.” nytimes. 31 Oct. 2007. 5 May. 2013.
Emspak, Jesse . “3D Printer May Someday Build Human Organs.” mashable. 6 Feb. 2013. 5 May. 2013.
Mukherjee, Sy. “The Stem Cell Breakthrough That Could Solve America’s Organ Transplant Shortfall.” thinkprogress. 8 Feb. 2013. 5 May. 2013.
Pow, Helen. “Girl, 2, implanted with new WINDPIPE after doctors grow organ from her own stem cells in innovative.” dailymail. 30 Apr. 2013. 5 May. 2013.
Hazell, Kyrsty . “World Health Organization: Illegal Kidneys Are ‘Sold Every Hour’ As Human Organ Trade Booms.” huffingtonpost. 28 May. 2012. 5 May. 2013.
The Associated Press. “N.J. corruption probe includes first organ trafficking case.” nj. 24 Jul. 2009. 5 May. 2013.