Human organ trafficking in Bangladesh | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 17, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 17, 2011

Perspective

Human organ trafficking in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is an emerging organ bazaar that has been in existence for more than a decade. It is operating by local and international patients, who buy organ within Bangladesh and then obtain the surgery mostly in India, as well as in Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore etc. The sellers are the poor citizens, who eventually sell their body parts to get out of poverty.
In 1999, Bangladeshi Parliament passed the Organ Transplant Act, which explicitly states that anyone violating the law could be imprisoned for a minimum of three years to a maximum of seven years, and/or penalised with a minimum fine of 300,000 Taka. Nonetheless, the organ trade is growing in Bangladesh.
I have been conducting research on kidney trafficking for a decade. Between 2004 and 2005, I interviewed some kidney kingpins along with 33 kidney sellers, several recipients and doctors in Bangladesh. The situation is seriously flawed, deeply disturbing and certainly constitutes gross violation of human rights.
In Bangladesh, organ brokers fight over clients in major transplant centers. Brokers approach poor citizens, saying that kidney donation is lucrative, harmless, and noble act. Once they are tempted, brokers sell their kidneys and deceive them brutally.
I revealed that a broker paid a seller only 40,000 Taka, although the broker received 400,000 Taka from the recipient. In another case, the broker hired two thugs and beaten the seller, who did not want to donate his kidney. No seller could take action against these brokers, as he was well protected by his elite clients.
Many wealthy recipients buy organs from the market, as they do not want to put their family members at risk. Typically, they hide their kidney shopping, saying publicly that they are unable to match tissues with family members, or their families are unwilling to donate their organs. However, no recipient is ever prosecuted for their illegal dealing.
Bangladeshi doctors do not directly participate in organ trade, but they intentionally oversight organ trafficking. When the President of World Transplantation Society questioned a Bangladeshi Nephrologist about my research findings, the Nephrologist replied in few words that the Transplant Act is “strictly maintained” in Bangladesh. I also confronted another Nephrologist at BSMMU showing evidence that illegal organ transplants were performed in the hospital. The Nephrologist quietly replied, “We always maintain ethical protocol, but sometimes there might be very few cases that we are unaware of.” When I challenged him again, he concluded that doctors are not police and their role does not constitute spying on recipients. Utterly, Bangladeshi doctors put a blind eye on the source of organs; they follow the market ethos.
80% of my interviewed kidney sellers did not receive the payment that they were promised. Bangladeshi sellers experience many health hazards after selling their kidneys. Yet, none of these sellers received the promised post-operative care.
Organ trafficking is gross violation of justice to the poor, who does not deserve losing parts from their malnourished bodies. In Bangladesh, it is urgent to:
i) create awareness against organ trafficking;
ii) establish a cadaveric organ donation programme;
iii) encourage organ donation from family members;
iv) introduce a national registry to record recipients and donors information;
v) set up a commission who verify the relationship between recipients and donors; and
vi) prosecute all criminals to ensure that justice prevails.

The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, Michigan State University, USA. Email: monir@msu.edu

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