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Kidney theft: Truth or fiction?

The outright theft of kidneys - Urban myth? Truth or fiction?

Nancy Scheper-Hughes runs Organs Watch. Based in California, it is dedicated to investigating every aspect of the trade in human organs.

She is adamant that theft does happen. "I have over a dozen well documented cases, from Turkey, to India, to Brazil, to Argentina," she told BBC World Service.

"Poor people go to hospital for minor surgery of some kind, abdominal surgery, or for women gynaecological surgery, and come out of the operation with a longer recovery rate and a larger scar than expected."

"They learn later on that while they were in for this minor surgery a kidney was taken at the same time," she added.

"That is outright kidney theft."

Her investigations began with a rumour, in Brazil. "The Brazilian version gave particular attention to detail and I became interested in this panic and fear about what happens to our bodies."

But selling rather than stealing is the really important trade, and large sums of money are involved. As a consequence, says Nancy Scheper-Hughes, it attracts a nasty crowd.

"A kind of body mafia is involved. I have discovered a new triangle of slavery, which unites the desperate patient in Israel, with organ brokers in Turkey, and doctors in Turkey and Israel with paid organ donors from Eastern Europe - Romania, Moldova and Russia as well.

"This is often done with the criminal backing of brokers who are also involved in brokering women's bodies for prostitution, children for international adoptions and small arms. It's literally a criminal network."
Kidney donors in the Philippines, AP
Some people in poor countries have sold organs for cash

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