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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Organ theft is the practice of stealing people's organs via surgery while they are under the influence of drugs, or once the person is dead, when the organs can be illicitly removed and then used for further purposes such as transplants or sold on the black market.


Evidence for the phenomenon

The practice is occasionally advanced as a theory into mysterious disappearances or murders, and is then advanced by sensationalist news reports, followed by word-of-mouth promotion as an urban legend. The earliest examples of organ theft were a series of killings for cadavers for use in medical schools, the Burke and Hare murders in Edinburgh in 1828[1] and the copycat London burkers in London in 1831.

Its semicredible basis, in fact, is the extreme difficulty with which organs can be preserved postmortem (usually requiring a braindead but still functionally alive patient), and the long waiting lists for available organs. There has never been sufficient evidence, however, to suggest that the practice has ever occurred on an organized basis. The United Nations Council of Europe has released a detailed study of the fact and the fictions surrounding organ theft.[2] This has not prevented its repeated depiction in horror movies and fiction novels.

Organ theft events

It has been confirmed that the organs of a number of prisoners in China were taken for transplant after their executions (though ostensibly with their forced permission)[3] on a for-profit basis, often to foreign nationals. The Chinese authoritarian justice system is alleged to work very quickly for those sentenced to death, not allowing significant time for appeals. This has led to allegations that the entire justice system has been corrupted by a government approved system of organ theft. Among those making this claim are Harry Wu and the Laogai Research Foundation. Until 2006, the Chinese government did not have a specific law in place outlawing the acquisition of organs without express consent. However, even with this new statute, other conflicting statutes remain, including that which allows State prisons to use prisoners in whatever way it deems beneficial to the State.

In July 2006, former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour, and Human Rights Lawyer David Matas, published a report concluding that "...large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners are victims of systematic organ harvesting, whilst still alive..." [4]

In The Hunt: Me and War criminals, Carla Del Ponte claims that Kosovo Albanians smuggled human organs of kidnapped Serbs after the Kosovo war ended in 1999.

In December 2009, Israel admitted that, in the 1980s and 1990s, there had been organ harvesting of skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from dead bodies of Palestinians, Israeli soldiers and citizens and foreign workers at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute without the permission from relatives. Although, it is contended that such practice no longer occurs. The revelation was a consequence of the Aftonbladet-Israel_controversy.[5][6]

Organ sale

Although illegal in most countries, the sale of organs is common.[7][8][9] Accurate statistics are hard to come by, but in March 2007, one estimate was that 5 to 10% of the world's kidney transplants involved compensation.[10] Although many reports that this trade has involved coercion or kidnapping (thus becoming organ theft) have turned out to be just rumors,[11] some cases have involved theft, for example the 2008 kidney ring run by doctor Amit Kumar in India.[12]

Another example is from Brazil, where a woman had a routine ovarian cyst surgery but later realized that one of her kidneys had disappeared during her operation. This had occurred without her knowledge when she realized after she went for a checkup at a different location than the hospital that she had her surgery. The hospital refused to provide her with any information or justification for her organ theft that had taken place during her surgery. These types of routine acts of theft are done for organ trafficking that can be later sold to the highest bid.[13]

See also


  1. ^ The Worlds of Burke and Hare date accessed: 14 December 2009.
  2. ^ Trafficking in organs, tissues, and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs date accessed: 14 December 2009.
  3. ^ BBC News - Organ sales 'thriving' in China 27/09/06
  4. ^ David Matas and David Kilgour (31 January 2007), An Independent Investigation into Allegations of organ Harvesting of Falun gong practitioners in china
  5. ^
  6. ^ Aftonbladet: Israel tog organ – utan tillstånd
  7. ^ International Summit On Transplant Tourism And Organ Trafficking (Sep 2008), "The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism", Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN 3 (5): 1227–31, doi:10.2215/CJN.03320708, ISSN 1555-9041, PMID 18701611 
  8. ^ Nullis-Kapp Clare (2004 September), "Organ trafficking and transplantation pose new challenges", Bulletin of the World Health Organization 82 (9): 715, PMC 2622992, 
  9. ^ Kumar, S. (2003), "Police uncover large scale organ trafficking in Punjab", BMJ 326: 180b, doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7382.180/b, PMID 12543823 
  10. ^ Budiani-Saberi, Da; Delmonico, Fl (May 2008), "Organ trafficking and transplant tourism: a commentary on the global realities.", American journal of transplantation 8 (5): 925–9, doi:10.1111/j.1600-6143.2008.02200.x, ISSN 1600-6135, PMID 18416734 
  11. ^ Jeneen Interlandi (Jan 19, 2009), "Not Just Urban Legend", Newsweek, 
  12. ^ Sara Sidner and Tess Eastment (January 29, 2008), "Police hunt for doctor in kidney-snatching ring", CNN, 
  13. ^ [Scheper-Hughes, N. 2002.The Ends of the Body: Commodity Fetishism and the Global Traffic in Organs. SAIS Reviewvol. XXII no. 1, 61-80.

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