Authorities in south China have laid charges against five people in a chase that, we hope, will be unique in technology history. The five are charged with intentional injury for organizing the removal — and subsequent transplant — of a kidney from a seventeen year-old high school student. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, the defendants include organ brokers, a hospital contractor, and a surgeon. Other suspects are still being investigated.
The kidney removal and transplant took place last April. The student, identified only by the surname Wang, was given 22,000 yuan (about US$3,500) for his kidney. He then returned home, where his mother immediately questions how he was able to afford a new iPad 2 and iPhone. The student told her he had sold one of his kidneys.
The mother called police, and the story made Chinese television news. Initial reports had Wang’s condition worsening following the surgery, which was apparently conducted in a facility not certified for organ transplantation. Xinhua reports the student now suffers from renal problems and his condition is worsening.
According to the report, the scheme was hatched by one of the defendants who sought to make quick money through illegally selling kidneys; Xinhua describes as “penniless and frustrated over gambling debts.” He had another of the defendants trawl online chat rooms looking for potential donors, and had another lease an operating room at a local hospital’s urology department. The transplant itself was conducted by still another defendant. Overall, the originator of the scheme received 222,000 yuan (about US$35,000) for the deal: about 10 percent went to Wang, while the rest was split between the surgeon and other people involved in the deal.
China only banned trade in human organs in 2007, but a significant illegal market exists. China’s Ministry of Health reports that about 1.5 million people in China are in need of organ transplants, but only around 10,000 transplants are conducted every year. The government has set up a voluntary organ donation system, but it is not yet meeting the need, prompting many to seek organs on the black market.