Bringing down Dr. Horror: Organ trafficking in India

The current issue of The Atlantic covers the recent arrest of Amit Kumar, who author Yudhijit Bhattacharjee calls “India’s self-taught and self-made kidney king.”  The Indian media have been a little less forgiving, dubbing him “Dr. Horror.”

Kumar was arrested for operating an organ trafficking ring that capitalized on the misfortune of poor migrant workers and urban destitute to acquire valuable human goods.

Bhattacharjee writes:

Kumar, who’s now on trial, has told officials that he sent his agents to offer such men anywhere from $500 to $2,500 for a kidney. Elsewhere, in the fast-growing towns of states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Kumar’s ring also went after newly arrived migrant workers seeking jobs.

Kumar’s men concentrated on a specific Muslim neighborhood of Mumbai.  The local Islamic shrine gives away food to the destitute, attracting crowds of beggars — fodder for traffickers.  When it comes to discarded people, it seems their very organs become worth more than anything else.

While many of the donors apparently sold their kidneys voluntarily, others were coerced or tricked into the transaction:

The Indian government’s case against Kumar includes complaints from seven men who allege that they were cheated out of their kidneys. Their stories are similar: Gyasuddin or other agents of Kumar took them to Gurgaon on the pretext of employment as masons, waiters, or cooks. They were kept at safe houses and medically tested. Some were forced to undergo surgery; others were falsely diagnosed with ailments like gall stones that required surgical treatment.

The tactics of force and coercion are almost identical to those employed in other types of human trafficking situations.

But perhaps the most important thing to note about the article doesn’t come up until the end.  Although The Atlantic makes it clear that Kumar was heading up a global transplant ring, not until the end is it mentioned that the clients being served were from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, in addition to Asia.

Some of us, it seems, can buy almost anything to fix almost any problem.  And others have to sell off body parts.

(Header image: Upick Reviews, featuring a list of 8 countries where organ trafficking occurs, including China, Kosovo, Pakistan, and Moldova)

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