Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Kidneys are the most popular — bought and sold on the global black market at a rate of at least 20,000 per year. Blood, tissue, skin, corneas and eggs are also highly valued. Human bones are a centuries-old mainstay.
The demand outstrips the supply, and so millions of variations on that old urban legend — some unsuspecting victim waking up in a bathtub in Vegas, missing a kidney — actually exist: People snatched off the street in India and China, held for years as chained-up blood donors. Prisoners in China forced to donate body parts, plucked apart, sometimes alive, sometimes without anesthesia. Entire villages, like the Baseco slum in the Philippines, where the bulk of inhabitants have only one kidney — having sold the other off for a few hundred dollars to pay rent or buy food or medicine for a sick relative.
Read Maureen Callahan’s full story at the NY Post
Journalist Scott Carney figures he’s worth about $250,000, but that number isn’t based on his savings or his assets; it’s what Carney thinks his body would fetch if it were broken down into individual parts and sold on what he calls the “red market.” In his new book, also called The Red Market, Carney explores the shadowy but lucrative global marketplace for blood, bones and organs. He tells NPR’s Melissa Block that despite being underground, there’s no question the red market is thriving. “It’s really hard to get accurate figures on what the illegal market is on body parts, but I’m figuring it’s definitely in the billions of dollars,” Carney says.
‘When You’re At Your Most Desperate Place … The Brokers Come In’ As part of his research, Carney visited an Indian refugee camp for survivors of 2004’s massive tsunami. Today, the camp is known by the nickname Kidneyvakkam, or Kidneyville, because of how common it is for the women who live there to sell their kidneys. “The women are just lined up,” Carney says. “They have their exposed midriffs and there are all these kidney extraction scars because when the tsunami happened, all these organ brokers came in and realized there were a lot of people in very desperate situations and they could turn a lot of quick cash by just convincing people to sell their kidneys.”
Listen to the story on NPR