(NaturalNews) The recent arrests of 44 people on charges of organ trafficking have exposed a major criminal market in illegal organ transplants, where wealthy patients purchase organs from poor Third World residents through brokers residing in the United States.
"In India, China, Africa and Latin America the poor are selling their kidneys to wealthy buyers through an underground set of networks," said Steven Post of Stony Brook University. "The donors make enough money to buy a house or put their kids through college and the doctors do the transplants overseas, in India for example, at perfectly legitimate hospitals, where nobody cares about the buying and selling of organs," he said.
In other cases, transplants take place at U.S. hospitals -- as in the case of an organ smuggling network that flew poor Moldavian organ donors into the country on fake student or tourist visas and took them directly to hospitals for illegal transplants.
Among the people arrested in July was Levy Rosenbaum, who Nancy Schepper-Hughes described as "the man to go to in New York" for an illicit organ transplant. Rosenbaum allegedly boasted to undercover law enforcement agents that he had been trafficking in organs for 10 years, making between $150,000 and $180,000 per kidney.
Organ donors in countries such as India are typically paid between $2,000 and $10,000 for a kidney. In a transplant ring recently broken up in Gurgaon, India, four doctors and five nurses had transplanted more than 400 kidneys at three hospitals over the past nine years, paying donors only $1,000 per organ.
A shortage in organs for donation -- the U.S. waiting list for kidneys has more than 80,000 names on it -- has led to a huge demand for cheap black market organs. The so-called "kidney mafia" includes doctors performing illegal transplants, organ hunters searching for donors, and middleman brokers such as Rosenbaum who match recipients with doctors and donors.