Close to 8,000 miles from Michigan in the capital city of Bangladesh, a black market trade is taking organs from the poor to save the rich. For the past 10 years, Michigan State University professor Monir Moniruzzaman has dedicated his work to exposing the black market organ trade in Bangladesh.
It hasn't been an easy journey. Doctors who performed illegal operations denied it. Brokers who facilitated the deals denied it and resorted to intimidation. But, eventually persistence paid off and 33 organ sellers shared their stories.
Prof. Moniruzzaman discovered that in most cases organ brokers make the deal happen, offering poor Bangladeshis money in exchange for an organ, usually a kidney. The price is about $1,500 dollars, or so they're told. In most cases, during the operations, things unfolded differently and about 80% of the donors didn't receive all of the money they were promised.
Dr. Moniruzzaman found that most of the operations are taking place in India, with reputable doctors performing these illegal surgeries on eight to 10 people at a time. Newspaper ads tell kidney sellers if they're willing to cut open their body and give up an organ they can get a visa and a new life in the United States.
Dr. Moniruzzaman recalls the story of a resident from New York City who went and bought an organ from Bangladesh. The operation took place in Singapore and the man got back with the organ to the United States. Even worse, kidney sellers and black market organs are finding their way to United States soil and United States hospitals. Dr. Moniruzzaman says there are cases where poor people came to the United States and the operations were performed in the United States.
This black market trade is disturbing to the reputable organizations in the United States who facilitate legal organ donation, like Gift of Life Michigan. Scott McQueer, from Gift of Life Michigan says, "the regulation is for the safety, recovery and organ transplantation, with that being said, we also deal with UNOS and they make sure that organs are being distributed fairly based on severity of illness, based on blood type, wait time and geography also plays a role."
But, for all the regulation, geography is certain playing a role in what is becoming a global war. Dr. Moniruzzaman says people are finding loopholes in the law when it comes to live organ donation. He says it appears that brokers are creating fake passports and notary documents to make these poor sellers look like they're related to the recipient.