Organs for Sale: Impoverished Bangladeshis Try to Sell Kidneys on Black Market, End Up Poor and Ill

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Some found themselves ostracized by their own families.

In the end, 27 of the 33 sellers received only a small fraction of what they had been promised. Most spent all of it on bills, many of them resulting from the surgery and its aftermath. Some spent it on television sets. Only two benefited economically; they invested in farms.

It is likely that none of them realized the danger involved in surgery and giving up one kidney. They were told they didn't need two, and the one they would keep would be better than the one they sold.

Moniruzzaman said he thinks the black market is even stronger today than it was when he did his field research. Some of the hospitals in India where the surgeries were performed have opened clinics in Bangladesh.

And the tragedy is, indeed, international.

More than 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ, and several thousand more are added every year. Around 7,000 die each year while waiting for a suitable transplant.

And each year the number of donors decreases, according to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation. It is illegal, as well as unethical, to sell a human organ in the United States. But that doesn't mean it never happens.

Last year an Israeli-American, Levy Yitzhak Rosenbaum, admitted in a federal court in New York that he brokered black-market transplants for a number of wealthy residents of New Jersey. He bragged in a surveillance transcript that he could deliver for a price of $160,000.

His attorneys argued that he was just providing a service for people in need.

So this isn't just a story about Bangladesh.

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