What is an Organ Broker?

A poor man is desperate to make money to feed his family in an undeveloped country. A rich man is sick and needs a kidney transplant in order to survive. He is willing to pay whatever it takes to save his life. A greedy man acts as a middleman, or broker, between the two men and goes home with a profit of thousands of dollars. Organ brokers are most common for organizing kidney transplants and other non-essential organs. However, occasionally organ brokers will bribe the family of a deceased for essential organs such as heart and liver.

The ethical question

Is the broker being benevolent by making a match to save someone’s life, or is the broker disobeying an ethical code by bribing the poor man for his kidney and charging the rich man to save his own life so that the broker profits?

Making a match

For a broker to make any money at all, he must first make a match between a willing donor and a needy, rich recipient. The most common organ brokering is for kidneys. Due to the laws in the United States and other highly developed countries, brokering organs is extremely rare.

Brokers typically seek out the impoverished in undeveloped countries not only for their willingness to do anything for a small sum of money, but also for the lack of legal regulations and enforcement. After a broker has found a willing donor, tests are run to determine the blood type and specific organ characteristics. A broker will then make a list of his potential donors and their test results. Next a needy recipient must be found and matched with an organ on the list. When a match is found, the donor is contacted and brought to the operation location—typically in a host country where the operation can be done “behind closed doors” or without being noticed. In the end, the donor goes home with a small sum of money, the recipient is out hundreds of thousands of dollars and the broker and doctor profit greatly, regardless of the operation being

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