Desperate for money, a slew of people have apparently turned to Facebook in an attempt to sell their organs, a United Kingdom newspaper investigation has revealed.
A journalist from the Sunday Post recently posed as the brother of a woman in need of a kidney transplant, placing an ad on Facebook in search of a donor. In less than a week he received 11 responses, with one man offering an organ in return for 30,000 pounds (roughly $50,000). Respondents hailed from as far away as India and Mexico; one was a 22-year-old dad willing to give up his kidney for money so that he and his pregnant fiancée could return home to Hungary.
A representative for the social network was not immediately available to comment.
Under the U.K.'s Human Tissue Act, it is illegal to buy or even advertise organs for sale in the U.K., said Alan Clamp, chief executive of the Human Tissue Authority, which oversees the regulation of organ donations, per the Sunday Post. Similar laws are in place almost every country worldwide, including the United States. Yet lengthy hospital waitlists (up to 7 years) and the time sensitivity of most patients’ critical health needs forces some to turn to the black market.
A 2012 report from the World Health Organization says more than one human organ is illegally purchased every hour worldwide -- the majority of these are kidneys. Donors can include impoverished villagers desperately in need of cash, funeral home directors who cut deals with organ brokers and, in the worst cases, victims of sex-trafficking or kidnapping, Psychology Today reports.
Most legal organ donations in the U.S. come from the deceased or a family member who matches the blood type of the patient. But there is a vast worldwide shortage of available donors for those desperately in need. There are currently 99,521 candidates waiting for a kidney transplant in the U.S. alone. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, most won’t received a transplant this year, and roughly 4,500 people will die every year in the U.S. still waiting.
While the online black market may circumvent a years-long waiting list, it presents moral, ethical and legal dilemmas for all parties involved. Many hospitals are often hesitant to accept outside donations. According to a report by ABC News, only 10 percent of transplant centers will even consider doing a kidney transplant from a live donor not known by the patient.
Facebook launched its own legal organ donation initiative in 2012, teaming up with Donate Life America to create a tool that encourages Facebook users to register for organ donation. By the end of the project's first day, 6,000 people had enrolled through 22 state registries. Those numbers "dwarf[ed] any past organ donation initiative," Donate Life's chief executive, David Fleming, said at the time.