One of the major tragedies of capitalism is the fact that we have commodified virtually everything. From water to food,to shelter and organs, everything can be purchased for the right price. With long wait lists for organs many westerners have traveled to impoverished third world countries to purchase, livers, kidneys and bone marrow. There are those that rationalize this decision by arguing that the money proffered will improve the quality of life for the person who has been forced to sell part of their physical self, however if we are honest we know that this is the worst manifestation of exploitation.
Spain has an unemployment rate of 17% and now the treacherous business of black market organs has become a large enterprise. They are priced at a much higher rate than those available in third-word countries under the belief that they will be healthier. Ads are even appearing in local newspapers and on the internet.
Alberto, an unemployed construction worker in Valencia with two small children, said he was afraid of ending up on the street because he could no longer pay his mortgage.
“The bank is on my back,” he said. “If I could think of some other way of raising the money, believe me, I would.”
His biggest fear was that he might fall into the hands of professional traffickers who might operate on him without paying.
He said the price of £150,000 was negotiable but he wanted at least half of the money up-front before going under the knife. He said he had not yet received any offers.
According to FACUA bone marrow, kidneys and lungs range from EUR 15,000 to EUR 1 million. With Spain experiencing the highest unemployment in the 27 member European Union is it any wonder that its poorest citizens have become easy prey?
For the sake of subsistence people are taking a desperate chance. Should one of their remaining kidneys fail, the “donor'” would be forced to live a life on dialysis. If they are already unable to afford the necessities of life, it is fair to assume that such intensive medical treatment would be prohibitive to many. Going under anesthesia is also always a risk and therefore the "donor" might end up losing their life on the operating table.
The stories about organ sales in Spain have been very visible and yet we know that this phenomenon has been occurring in third world countries for some time now. The fact that this has raised the level of concern is illustrative of which bodies we value and which we do not. A poor man that sells his kidney in India does not risk less than a Spanish man. It is but an accident of birth and our desire to privilege one body over another that creates a difference.
Twenty percent of all transplants are done with illegally purchased organs and as this global
recession depression continues, many will be forced into desperate situations. The decision to sell these organs is not made freely because the failure to do so means destitution and starvation. In times of economic retrenchment it is always the poor that pay the heaviest price and as their numbers increase, we will continue to find new and more startling ways of debasing and exploiting them for gain under our predatory capitalist system. Not everything should come with a price tag.