An Underground World of Organ Sale

30 06 2009

Kara Bertrand
Humber College Student
Written: February 2008

This article was written for an opinion writing class at Humber College.

There are over a thousand people in Ontario waiting for organ donations, but Canada has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the developed world. It is estimated that one person dies while waiting every three days.

In fact, a third of patients on the organ waiting list don’t live long enough to finally receive a transplant. Those with extra money may give themselves the option to jump the line and buy an organ from illegal transplant rings all around the world. However, the underground sale of organs should not take place anywhere, especially not in Canada.

Universal health care means every Ontarian has the right to receive equal treatment, regardless of social status or annual income. But when its wealthiest citizens decide to take the reigns and contact underground operations, there is a strong ethical issue at stake.

Inequality is at the forefront in this situation, leaving those without disposable income waiting for much needed organs and operations. It leaves a great injustice and inequality in a country known for its opportunities.

Amit Kumar, the accused leader of an illegal kidney transplant ring, was deported from Nepal to India this week. Authorities allege that the Brampton-based doctor sold up to 500 kidneys over the past nine years to those who travelled in India. Police say victims were forced at gunpoint on operating tables and relieved of their organs. Health precautions that are in place here with organ donation do not exist everywhere in the world. Those who decide to take part in illegal organ transplants take the risk that the organs are not healthy.

Canadian organ donation is the lowest rate amongst developed countries at between 13 and 14 donors per million each year. At this rate, waiting lists are longer than they would be provided more Canadians signed their donor cards.

With the health system in such a situation, many of those needing organs are left without any other option. To many, it’s either die waiting, or collect enough money to buy an organ illegally. This line of thinking almost makes the underground sale of organs justified, if it wasn’t so dangerous and illegal.

The Canadian criminal code lacks legislation on the buying and selling of organs. By leaving this important issue out of the code, desperate people may believe there are no consequences for their actions.

While there are fines, the punishment for this act does not add up to much. The sale of illegal organs would not exist without those who illegally give away their organs, and these means may not be the most hygienic. A Philadelphia nurse admitted recently that he cut body parts from 244 corpses and forged documents so that these parts, some diseased, could be sold to Canadian and American patients.

In poorer countries, such as India, citizens attempt to make extra money by selling their organs to underground operations, promised work at the end of the operation. Other means may include forced operations against indebted victims. The human rights violations involved in this action greatly outweigh the benefits for those waiting for organs.

The buying and selling of organs in Canada, or even outside, shows an incredible decrease in our health care system, and points to a problem that lies far beyond its operating tables. Buying and selling organs through underground operations is an illegal and sad reality in our society, and we can only hope that there is still time to make changes.