Between rising healthcare costs and shrinking employer benefits, many workers have seen their health insurance coverage plummet in recent years. Many families are no longer able to access the healthcare services they need. Combine this increasing desperation with the fact that human organs are already in short supply and you have a recipe for disaster. In countries with crumbling or undeveloped infrastructures, the international organ-trafficking black market is able to freely exploit victims with few consequences.
Often, the boundaries of the international organ-trafficking trade are unknown to recipients in developed countries. Middlemen offer lump sum payments for donations, and in poor areas where work is scarce, this in and of itself may be rationale enough for considering the process. Organ brokers then smuggle the organs over international borders to fuel the growing demand of those waiting on transplant lists in developed countries. This illegal, profitable business developed in direct response to these shortages, which represent huge obstacles for U.S. hospitals and medical professionals alike. For kidneys alone, the legal waiting list can stretch an average of five years, while 3,300 Americans die every year waiting for kidney transplants. The number climbs to an astounding 85,000 citizens a year when other organs are taken into consideration.
Though the World Health Organization in 1991 published international guidelines to avoid the creation of such a market, the organ-trafficking trade developed in direct response physical shortages. Legal organ markets are thought to be a possible solution to curbing the international black market exchange. Iran, for example, has a legal organ market that helps facilitate connections between patients and potential donors. A legal market increases the probability that donors and recipients will be related, which further increases the chances for a successful transplant. Countries without a legal market of organ exchange remain at risk for developing a large illegal organ-trafficking exchange. Even with a legal market, there must be a regulated tracking system to ensure the organ donor sources have not been coerced.
Diseases of affluence (diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, etc.) have shifted the international landscape in favor of the organ traffickers, and the World Health Organization estimates that there is at least one illegal organ sale every hour. These transplant operations often take place in advanced hospitals, but these facilities may not have stringent tracking systems for documenting their sources for organ donation. Dying patients with a surplus of money are willing to pay exorbitant sums to circumvent such documentation. The answer, it seems, lies in providing a safe, legal organ exchange that both potential donors and recipients can access freely. This would give patients reassurance that they were not contributing to international coercion, and donors would be able to help those abroad while generating funds to help their families.