How Much Is A Body Worth? Investigating The Illegal Organ Trade


What would you say if I said your body had a market value of over £1 million[1] – equal to the average Glaswegian’s income over forty years?[2]   Would you be pleasantly surprised or disappointed?


Before you start thinking about living your life with only one kidney (sometimes selling for £104,000[3]) these prices aren’t being offered by surgeons in safety at your local hospital, but in farmers outhouses on the black market.


Buying these so-called ‘commodities’ is not a new phenomenon and stems from a global organ shortage that is capitalised on by criminals. They largely target the poorest citizens who are desperate to settle debts and help their families.


One case was a 21-year-old man in China who sold his kidney for £4,000 to pay off his gambling debts. No hospital in sight, he was blind folded, taken to a farmhouse and woke up without a kidney[4].


China isn’t new to accusations of trafficking and illegal organ harvesting: recently the country has been dogged by reports that imprisoned followers of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual philosophy, are executed to provide ‘on demand’ organs.


Katrina Bramstedt, an Australian academic said: “It is known that Chinese surgeons perform the removal procedure [on political prisoners] and sometimes the ‘donor’ has still been alive during this process—the organ-removal process is what actually kills them.”[5]


Other cases, reported earlier this month, took place in a small Indonesian village 200 kilometres from capital Jakarta. One victim was 18-year-old Ifar, who sold his kidney to pay off debt and support his wife and child. 24-year-old Dasep from the same village also sold his kidney: “‘My condition, daily, was I was ashamed I couldn’t find a job,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t steal, could I? The money wouldn’t be Halal. So I sold it, my body’”.[6]


Victims of organ trafficking are not solely found in Asia, but instead form part of a global problem. On 3rd February, a report by Radio Free Europe stated that two Russian ethnic children aged 6 and 14 had been rescued from organ traffickers in Kyrgyzstan.[7]


A week later the Nigerian Medical Association accused Nigerian governor Rochas Okrocha of trafficking human organs with Kosovan deputy Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci.”[8]


Another report outlined the case of Syrian refugees in Turkey being targeted for illegal organ donations by a known Israeli organ trafficker in exchange for travel money[9].


The common trait that connects all of these accounts is criminals praying on the vulnerable and desperate and that all victims, despite their level of financial poverty, regret their decision.


Occasionally, people are being held to account.  The Tico Times reported earlier this month, five members of an alleged trafficking ring in Costa Rica were arrested.[10] It’s a small step, yet it keeps alight the hope that arrests will continue and this barbaric and corrupt business will begin to fade.

Words: Rebecca Corbett




[1] Information taken from an infographic compiled by Buddyloans:

[2] Based on the wage survey done by The Guardian in 2011:

[3] Information taken from Infographic by Buddyloans.

[4] BBC Article published in August 2015:

[5] Article published by Europe Newsweek:

[6] Article published by ABC:

[7] Radio Free Europe:

[8] article:

[9] American Herald Tribune article:

[10] The Tico Times article: