Wednesday, November 20, 2013

AIFF 2013: Tales From The Organ Trade - How Is Selling Sex Like Selling A Kidney?

In both cases, selling your body (parts)  is illegal in most places, but giving it away is not.

People  sell their bodies (generally) or body parts,(nearly always) because they can't see other viable ways to break out of poverty.

But there are differences.
  • A prostitute can deal directly with the client, but there has to be a sophisticated infrastructure available to remove and transplant a kidney.
  • Even if you give away your kidney, the recipient still pays a lot.   
  • You can only sell a kidney once. 
How much would you sell your kidney for?  What about a finger?

There is a black market in kidneys.  Kidneys from people so poor that they will sell one to a stranger for as little as $1000.  And doctors who transplant those kidneys to people paying $100,000 or more. The doctors argue it's their moral obligation to save a person's life.

I'd note that I don't think the comparison to prostitution came up in the movie, but it
seemed a logical one after I saw the movie.

Surgeon - image source
Tales From The Organ Trade, a documentary film that will show at the Anchorage International Film Festival, brings these abstract questions into stark reality.  There are interviews with people needing kidneys, with a man in Toronto who got a new kidney in Kosovo, with people who have sold their kidneys (from the Philippines and the Moldovan woman whose kidney went to the Toronto man), with a prosecutor chasing down doctors who perform illegal operations and the managers who arrange everything, and with the Turkish surgeon who put the Kosovo kidney into the Toronto man.
Recipient- image source

This is not a preachy or academic film, it's more like a good investigative reporting movie that deals with a hard subject in a straightforward way.  It challenges us to think beyond black and and white and to deal with ethical ambiguities.

At the end, the movie doesn't exactly endorse it, but it does mention there is legislation pending that would regulate selling organs.

That may be a short term solution, but the real issue, it seems to me, is a world of some rich and lots of poor, poor people who are willing to risk long term health problems for the chance to get their families into what, for them, is decent housing.

Another question I had was what percent of people, say in the US,  are registered donors - people who sign up when they renew their driver's license or register online?  How would increasing the number of donors shorten the waiting lists for kidneys?
Sellers - image source
The answer is, thanks to a little googling, about 43% of adult Americans are registered organ donors.  So perhaps doubling that number would help, and adding kids to the list would also increase the number.

Tales From The Organ Trade is one of the documentaries in competition and will show:

5:00 PM       Sat, Dec 07  AK Exp small
11:00 AM     Sat, Dec 14  AK Exp large

[Note:  I saw this film because their publicist offered me a private link online to see it before the festival.  It was an unsolicited email.]

[This is a repost because there was errant text in the middle of the original which I could not find in the code.]

1 comment:

  1. Not sure about selling body parts, maybe with some effective regulation. I think people should be allowed to do want they want with their bodies.


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