How much is a body worth? Organ Trafficking and the business of bodies.

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How much is a body worth? Organ Trafficking and the business of bodies.

What would you do if somebody offered you R2 million for whatever you had in your pocket at the time and didn’t really need? What if it wasn’t in your pocket, but maybe tucked away in your torso — a “spare” kidney. Poor health affects us and our loved ones and sometimes an organ transplant is recommended by doctors as a life-saving treatment. Unfortunately, organ donations, especially in South Africa, are scarce. According to the Organ Donor Foundation, only 12.5% of needy recipients in 2015 received an organ[3]. Organ trafficking is illegal, dangerous and prohibited by the World Health Organisation and yet it is a worldwide phenomenon. It is a multibillion dollar industry and involves the forced removal and illegal sale of organs or body parts. People who are desperate for money are usually the ones who fall victim to these syndicates: the typical organ donor is a male of about 28.9 years old with an annual income of $480 — the typical recipient is a male of about 48 [1] years old with an annual income of $53,000[1].

Why does this happen?

Kidney failure has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure which are all rising diseases in our world. 5–10% of organ trafficking cases are for kidney transplants[1] and the World Health Organisation estimates that 10 000 organs are purchased annually. To understand more about organ trafficking syndicates, watch this news clip.

Organs are not only trafficked to answer desperate health issues but also used for ‘muthi’ in South Africa and ‘black magic’.

How does this happen?

Victims often tell themselves that the transaction is justified because they are ‘saving’ somebody else’s life. They are often paid less than what they are promised or are even cheated and not paid at all. This is easy to do since the process is illegal and completely unmonitored. But not all victims are lucky enough to choose what happens to their organs. In some cases, vulnerable persons such as homeless individuals or children are ‘treated’ with surgery and their organs are removed with or without their knowledge[2].

It’s happening right now…

In November 2010, Saint Augustine’s Hospital in Durban pleaded guilty to having knowingly allowed its employees to be used in an organ trafficking scheme. 109 illegal kidney transplants took place at the facility between 2001 and 2003, and 5 transplants involved kidneys removed from the bodies of minors[3]. Unfortunately, doctors in the private sector are not monitored — because South Africa has no national register on which every transplant is recorded. While waiting for a transplant patients undergo dialysis which can cost almost R95 000 a year under private care[4], making these patients increasingly desperate for any means to obtain the necessary organs.

Register as an organ donor in South Africa

“Don’t make change too complicated. Just begin” — Unknown

Register to become a legal organ donor:

  • Your heart, liver and pancreas can save 3 lives
  • Your kidneys and lungs can help up to 4 people.
  • You can help up to 50 people by donating your corneas, skin, bone, tendons and heart valves.


What can you do?

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Awareness is a huge need in South Africa — the average South African doesn’t know that Human Trafficking is a problem in our country. Email for more details on our Anti-Human Trafficking Workshops.
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